NEWS

Residents return home after Kootenay flash flood

07/18/2012 02:50 EDT | Updated 09/17/2012 05:12 EDT
People in the Kootenays are mopping up after extreme weather swept through the region Tuesday.

Torrential rains flooded out homes and businesses, and closed highways near Castlegar and Nelson, and forced the evacuation of three houses in Thrums, B.C., 15 kilometres north of Castlegar.

"It was coming down so bad, and the lightning and everything else," said Castlegar mayor Lawrence Chernoff.

"We had five inches of rain in just about an hour and 15 minutes."

He says the city switchboard lit up as residents and business reported flooding all over the city.

Officials say 50 millimetres of rain fell at the Castlegar airport in an hour, closing several roads, including Highway 3A.

Ami White, who lives in Thrums, drove past a gush of mud and water just before the highway was closed.

"It was coming down so fast and spewing like a spray of mud and rock that I kind of thought to myself, 'This looks like it's going to get bigger.' And with all the news lately you think it's going to blow," said White.

The highway was reopened several hours later, and no one was injured by the debris flow. Still, officials are asking people to be alert and keep a close eye on waterways.

Two emergency operations centres have been opened in the central Kootenay region, staffed with experts who can respond quickly to evacuate homes if needed, said regional district spokeswoman Frances Maika.

"We are fielding any kind of reports that come in. We have the emergency operations centre in place. And we are relying on people to just keep an eye on the situation as they see it, and call it in if they see something unusual," said Maika.

Residents were told they could return home Tuesday night, but many chose to wait until Wednesday, said Maika.

Recovery mission continues in Johnsons Landing

The labour-intensive and emotional task of digging for the remaining two people buried under a massive landslide in Johnsons Landing is expected to continue Wednesday.

The body of a man and a young woman, likely Valentine Webber and one of his daughters, have already been recovered.

Crews combed through debris on the shores of Kootenay Lake Tuesday, looking for any signs of a German tourist and the second Webber daughter.

The 24 searchers, divided into two teams, focused their efforts on the area where the two other bodies were found earlier this week, and also around the foundation of the German tourist's cabin.

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