Flooding has become a reality for many communities in the Okanagan Valley as the region faces more extreme weather storms, blamed on the impact of climate change. (File photo)

Okanagan high target for spring flooding

Higher snowpack and mild winter precipitation levels raise concerns for Canada’s insurance industry

  • Jan. 23, 2021 5:30 a.m.

The Okanagan is one of the most prone regions in Canada for a major flooding event this spring, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).

The reasons for that outlook are a higher than normal snowpack combined with a relatively mild winter, which so far has produced more winter precipitation than normal, all factors that point to a major spring flooding event.

“Right now we have watched lower than average snowpack levels in eastern Canada and across the Maritimes, while they been higher than normal in B.C., ” said Craig Stewart, vice-president, federal affairs, for IBC.

“So our attention right now is watching B.C. to see what happens.”

IBC released a statement last week saying severe weather has caused $2.4 billion in insured damage across Canada in 2020.

Some of the major weather events contributing to that total occurred in Alberta due to flooding and a hail storm, rainfall in B.C. and significant storms in Ontario and Quebec.

READ MORE: Okanagan faced high flood risk in spring 2020

READ MORE: Okanagan’s flood history opens preparedness chapter

Stewart said the main culprit is climate change, combined with a lack of a national plan to protect Canadians from floods, wildfires, windstorms and hail.

He said the damages incurred by the insurance industry are ultimately passed back to taxpayers in higher insurance rates.

“The reason the insurance industry exists is to provide fiscal security for businesses and property owners and we are capitalized efficiently to handle severe weather storms,” said Stewart.

“But obviously the trend in Canada of multi-billion annual losses does cause stress on the industry. Insurers use reinsurers (companies that provide financial protection to insurance companies) so the rates we pay go up…so the increased costs do get passed on.”

While it may be pretty clear to some and a hoax to others, Stewart said climate change is “absolutely clear” to the insurance industry, which in Canada is pushing the federal government to develop a national strategy to mitigate potential severe weather storm damages.

Stewart said the feds have committed to establishing a Task Force on High Risk Residential Flood Insurance and Strategic Relocation, adding the insurance industry has a seat the table for that task force.

“The first meeting is in February and we are hopeful to see recommendations come from that task force by the spring of 2022,” Stewart said.

He said what the insurance industry wants addressed in those recommendation includes funding for infrastructure mitigation projects; greater protection measures of natural wetlands which can absorb precipation and spring runoff; tree replanting of clear-cut areas to better hold back water and snowmelt. With less funding assistance emphasis on furnace energy efficiency retrofits for homes and more emphasis on wildfire and flooding prevention measures; and relocating homeowners living in worst flooding situations.

He said government needs to start thinking about storm disaster prevention rather than just reacting to damaging weather events.

“We need to do a better job of addressing the root causes behind the damage being caused. In Canada we are traditionally not good at preparing for disasters, at preparing for a pandemic. For example, there are parts of the country, like B.C., which are better prepared for earthquakes than others, such as Quebec.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

flooding

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Dixie Fried Hep Katz are featured in episode four of the Focus Online Series, March 4-7. (Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre photo)
Okanagan talents shine under Vernon spotlight

12-year-old from Lake Country, Enderby singer-songwriter-guitarist and Kelowna duo in Focus

School bus fees are being charged to all riders in the Vernon School District. (Courtesy photo)
Parents pressure Vernon school board to curb bus fee hike

More than 1,200 signatures on petition against $200 rider fees, to be discussed at board meeting

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. has cleared the Lumby RCMP of any wrongdoing after a missing person was found deceased in December 2020. (IIO photo)
Police watchdog says Lumby RCMP played no role in missing person’s death

The body was found by a family member shortly after the RCMP suspended their search

Vernon’s Vasek Pospisil has been named one of five winners of PacificSport Okanagan’s Community Sport Hero 2021 athletic excellence award. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Vernon’s Vasek Pospisil, Elena Gaskell, honoured for excellence

Tennis player and freestyle skier win PacificSport Okanagan awards

An off-duty Vernon Taxi driver got a 24-hour licence suspension, vehicle towed, after failing a standardized field sobriety test around 1:40 a.m. Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (John E Green - Facebook)
Vernon Taxi towed after driver suspected impaired

Off-duty cab towed from McDonald’s drive-thru early Tuesday morning

The images are of Bald Eagles feeding.
Photos: Birds of prey

Princeton photographer captures compelling photos of a Bald Eagle breakfast

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

Kamloops This Week
Cause of Kamloops landfill fire may never be known

Fire investigators are dealing with too much destruction in too large an area

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

Okanagan College
Okanagan College holds March Madness fundraiser

Money from the fundraiser will go to support the Okanagan College Foundation

Penticton city council has unanimously shot down an application from BC Housing to keep a shelter for people experiencing homelessness open for an additional year. (Jesse Day - Western News)
Penticton council denies extension of cold weather shelter

The Victory Church shelter will now be told to cease operations April 1

(Black Press file photo)
Penticton man arrested while sleeping in stolen vehicle, again

30-year-old Penticton resident Shane Pope is well-known to police

Most Read