Near-record drought conditions across the province created conditions for B.C.’s worst wildfire season on record, but winter rains may not bring replenishing relief. The soils in drought-shrivelled landscapes become “hydrophobic” — so dried and packed down that rainfall runs off before soaking in — which increases the risk of flash flooding in atmospheric-river storm events. “It depends on when they come,” said University of B.C. hydrologist John Richardson. “If we get sort of gentle rains for a few weeks, that will reduce some of the risks, but there’s nothing that can really guard us against a storm like we had in November 2021.” Climate change stacks the deck in favour of the likelihood for atmospheric-river events to occur, said Richardson, a professor of forest and conservation science at UBC’s faculty of forestry. “It’s a storm’s intensity, not the total amount of rainfall, that will be most important,” Richardson said.