Southern Lakes braces for floods

Approximately 26,500 sandbags have been distributed to residents of Marsh Lake, Carcross and Tagish to prepare them for this year's expected flooding.

Approximately 26,500 sandbags have been distributed to residents of Marsh Lake, Carcross and Tagish to prepare them for this year’s expected flooding.

The water levels are expected to peak in a week or two, and, as of Wednesday, were 24 centimetres below flood level.

Officials expect the water to reach “flood stage,” which is equivalent to the water level reached in 2004, and about a metre below the record floods of 2007.

At this level, flooding and damage is expected to be minor but still of concern to residents close to the water.

The Army Beach day-use area and boat launch at Marsh Lake have been closed indefinitely in anticipation of the floods.

Environment Canada issued a rainfall warning for southern Yukon Wednesday.

In fact, actual rainfall over the last two days was much less severe than predicted for the Whitehorse and Carcross regions, which is good news for Southern Lakes residents.

The ultimate water level will depend on rainfall and temperatures over the next few weeks.

High temperatures cause glacial melt, which causes water levels to rise.

Average water levels in the Southern Lakes have been rising steadily over the past few decades as the glaciers have been shrinking, said Ric Janowicz with Environment Yukon.

“Climate change has been occurring – it is a reality in the Yukon. Summer temperatures and precipitation have increased over the last three decades.”

This year’s snow pack in the region was 36 per cent above normal, another factor in the increased flood risk.

Southern Lakes residents are being asked to be aware of the risk in their particular location and create an emergency plan that would enable them to leave their home quickly for at least 72 hours.

Belongings and hazardous materials should be secured and removed from basements.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at jronson@yukon-news.com

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