NEWS

Flooding hits B.C. southern Interior communities

04/26/2012 12:01 EDT | Updated 06/26/2012 05:12 EDT

Rising water levels have flooded several communities in the southern interior of B.C., including areas of Kimberley, West Kelowna and at Tulameen.

B.C.'s River Forecast Centre has issued a high streamflow advisory for many waterways in the southern Interior, noting heavy rain through the Kootenay, Boundary, Okanagan and Similkameen regions will keep water levels high in area creeks and rivers until at least Friday.

The entire town of Tulameen, north of Princeton, has now been put on evacuation alert, after waters on nearby Otter Lake rose almost a meter overnight, spilling onto waterfront properties, affecting cabins and houses in the popular recreational area.

All 272 homes in the community are at risk, says Dale Kronebusch, emergency services supervisor for the Regional District of Okangan-Similkameen.

Kronebusch said as of Thursday morning, 72 homes in the community had become surrounded by water, many with flooded basements. Five homes had water come up onto the main floor and are uninhabitable. Eight homes were evacuated Wednesday night.

"The whole town site is built in a bit of a valley, and it's in a floodplain. It has a creek that runs from Otter Lake, and then flows into Tulameen River," said Kronebusch.

"The problem is, that there's too much water coming in to the Otter Lake, that's actually going out. There's too many creeks that are flowing into Otter Lake from the snow melt and the rain, and it's causing the Otter Creek to grow in size."

West Kelowna rescinds state of emergency

Nine West Kelowna properties were evacuated on Wednesday evening after McDougall Creek burst a dyke, flooding four properties and prompting officials to declare a local state of emergency.

On Thursday afternoon, the District of West Kelowna rescinded a local state of emergency but said the area is still at risk due to continued rain and the spring thaw.

West Kelowna Assistant Fire Chief Kerry Klonteig said the rising waters in the creek started to push over the banks on Wednesday evening.

"Within less than 10 minutes the whole dike burst in about a five-foot section and the direction of the river changed from there."

Two properties on Hitchner Road road were severely flooded, with water pouring into the interior of one home, said Klonteig.

"The whole flow of the water coming down basically just changed direction and started heading into the orchard to the affected property here, basically flooded out one house in its entirety in the basement area of the home," he said.

"The basement is full. There is some affected water in the upper level as well. Those residents have been evacuated."

A total of six homes were put on evacuation order. Not all residents left, but those who did were put up in a local hotel.

A crew of about 20 firefighters worked until midnight to repair the dike and shore up the sides of the creek.

Kimberley on evacuation alert

On Wednesday an evacuation alert was issued for about 40 homes in the Morrison subdivision after the Kimberley Creek flooded its banks.

"If we do get a significant increase in the amount of water coming through we may have to look at a full evacuation,' said Mayor Ron McRae.

A public meeting has been called for 10 a.m. Thursday at the Kimberley Curling Club to discuss flooding and the ongoing evacuation alert.

"We want to ensure the residents in Morrison Subdivision and Wallinger Avenue with houses numbered 2-98 are receiving information and feel informed," city spokeswoman Loree Duczek said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Residents in this area remain on evacuation alert, and are being asked to be prepared with clothing, medication, etc. in the event conditions change and they are asked to leave their homes with short notice," said the statement issued by the city.

More flooding in the forecast

A high streamflow advisory of the Southern Interior was issued by the B.C. River Forecast Centre on Wednesday morning, including the West Kootenay and East Kootenay areas and the Moyie River and the Boundary area including Granby and Kettle River.

"A frontal system is expected to work its way across British Columbia through Thursday. Environment Canada is forecasting up to 40 mm of rain through the region over the Wednesday-Thursday period," said the advisory.

"Snow melt rates are expected to decline during the passage of this frontal system. However, river levels are expected to remain elevated, or continue to rise, through Friday of this week in response to rainfall. "

"High stream flow and localized minor flooding in low-lying areas is possible, and will primarily be confined to smaller watersheds within the region. Flood conditions in medium to larger river systems are not expected at this time."

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