Record high snowpack in Old Crow, Yukon

Winter scene near Dawson City, Yukon. Yukon government officials say they are concerned of possible flooding this spring in Old Crow. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Although the snowpack in Canada’s northwestern Yukon territory is below the norm in many places, it’s at a record high in Old Crow, says the May 1 Yukon Snow Survey Bulletin and Water Supply Forecast.

Old Crow is Gwichʼin community of 236 located north of the Arctic Circle within the Porcupine River Basin.

This month’s survey reported that the basin’s snowpack was ‘well above average,’ at 182 per cent of the historical median.

“The May 1 snow survey indicates that there will be low freshet flood potential for most of the territory, while flood potential for Old Crow is considered high for both breakup and freshet,” the government said in a news release.

Freshet refers to the spring period when water flow increases after snow and ice melt. It can last several weeks.

The Peel River Basin, southwest of the Porcupine River basin, and the Alsek River Basin in the far southeast corner of the territory are the two other areas where the snowpacks were well above average.

Forecasting water and flow conditions

The Government of Yukon Water Resources Branch conducts snow surveys in March, April and May to help forecast the water conditions across the territory and summarize the winter weather and water conditions for important Yukon river areas.

It looks at 52 locations in Yukon and five locations in the neighbouring areas of British Columbia and Alaska.

The forecasting is important so authorities can can prepare and help predict where and when flooding might occur during spring breakup and the snowmelt period.

Such preparations are already under way for Old Crow.

The winter road to Old Crow is scheduled to be ready for traffic by February 24. It should be open until March 17, weather permitting. (from
The location of Old Crow, in Canada’s northwestern Yukon territory. (from

“With the heightened flood risk in Old Crow, the Government of Yukon, through the Emergency Coordination Centre, is working in collaboration with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and other partners and agencies to develop flood preparation and response plans for a range of scenarios for Old Crow,” the government said. 

“As the community prepares for a potential flood, proactive measures are being implemented to be prepared to respond.”

Low flood potential in most of territory

With the below average snowpack in much of the rest of Yukon, water levels are expected to be lower.

“In regions with well below average snowpack, lower than average freshet peak water levels are expected,” the government said.

“Across the south, freshet peaks may still be close to or slightly below average. Above average freshet peaks are expected in the Peel River, Alsek River and Porcupine River basins.”

Basins with significant snowmelt and snowpacks well below average included the Central Yukon River, the White River, the Stewart River and the Pelly River basins.

The Upper and Lower Yukon River basins were described in the survey as “close to average”. The Teslin and Liard basins were found to be below average.

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Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Oldest town in Yukon almost wiped out by ice jams and flooding, CBC News

Finland: Lapland seeing high waters, unusually heavy snow, Yle News

Sweden: Swedish weather service forecasts left municipalities ill-prepared for major floods, Radio Sweden.

United Kingdom: Arctic ice melt could put 1.5 million UK properties at flooding risk: report, Eye on the Arctic

United States: Bursting ice dam in Alaska highlights risks of glacial flooding around the globe, The Associated Press

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