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BC drought most severe in history, temperatures set to climb again in August

32/34 basins in British Columbia are at a level 3/5 drought or higher – 28 are a 4/5 or higher.

At a news conference this morning (Thursday), Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness Bowinn Ma said “This level of extreme drought has never been seen in this province before.”

She said this time last year all of the basins were between a level 1 and 2 drought, and in 2021, another year considered to be severe, it was not until September that a single basin hit a 5/5 drought level.

Four basins hit a drought level five in mid-July this year.

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Drought levels in BC as of August 10 2023 (Photo via BC Drought Information Portal)

“This is unprecedented, this is a type of hazard BC has not experienced in this type of extreme before, and it will require all levels of government to pull together to get through this,” she said. “We are largely building the ship as we are sailing it.”

The worst is likely yet to come.

Next week, higher than normal temperatures are expected all across the province. Prince George is set to be pushing 30 degrees by Tuesday.

“As the drought continues, there will be situations where difficult decisions will be made by the ministry of forests to protect the water supply,” Bruce Ralston, the Minister of Forestry, said in the conference.

Dr. Bonnie Henry and Ma both warned the heatwave will cause increased levels of heat stress, and potentially death, in the province, and urged residents to have a plan and method for staying cool in place.

The combination of heat and drought will also have a negative effect on wildfires – this year is already the worst on record, with 1.58 million hectares having been burned so far.

1.32 million of those have occurred in the Prince George Fire Centre.

Nearly 400 fires are burning in the province right now, 11 are considered to be of note.

Two of those are in the Prince George Fire Centre, the Greer Creek and Great Beaver Lake fires, which are both west of Prince George.

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“As our forests dry out, the fire danger will increase,” Ralston said.

“We are seeing more climate events – extreme heat, more wildfires, and severe drought,” Ma said. “I want to assure you our priority here in BC is to keep you safe, and we are prepared to do so.”

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