Flooding cuts B.C. highway access and drinking water supply
Shuswap and North Okanagan suffer heavy rains and mudslides
Posted: Jun 25, 2012 10:25 AM ET
Last Updated: Jun 25, 2012 9:36 PM ET
Flash flooding near Sicamous, B.C., has washed out Highway 97A in two places, damaging several vehicles and cutting off road access and drinking water supplies to hundreds of residences.
Around 350 people in the area of Swansea Point and 2 Mile have been forced from their homes due to an evacuation order issued after two raging creeks jumped their banks over the weekend.
Pat Marks is still in shock by the force of water that gushed across her property.
"We're knee deep in sludge and water in the basement right now. The carport behind filled with water and [it] broke part of the door down and took our cars with it so our cars are down the road in the ditch."
Flash flooding forced a creek over its banks and down the main road in the Swansea area near Sicamous. Another creek four kilometres away also washed out the highway, leaving residents like Steve Wowk stranded.
"I think everyone's in shock, right. The only way out is by boat or helicopter," he said.
Wowk said the devastation is unimaginable. He watched cars and trucks get caught up in surging water as Hummingbird Creek poured over its banks.
"It was scary at times, you know, feeling a little shocked and indifferent," he said.
On Sunday, RCMP helped evacuees leave the area by barge and houseboat.
All schools in the Sicamous area have also been closed until further notice. Officials with the regional district said drinking water for the entire town has been contaminated, and residents are advised not to drink tap water.
Sicamous, in the northern Okanagan region, is approximately 500 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.
Mudslide cuts Kaslo water
In the Kootenays, residents of one village are also being advised that their water supply has been severely compromised because of flooding on the weekend.
Rae Sawyer, the chief administrative officer for the Village of Kaslo, said that water stopped flowing into the village's main reservoir after a mudslide on Kemp Creek.
"Water use is completely restricted to interior household use and we recommend every household set aside a supply of drinking water," she said.
Sawyer said crews were working to clear the slide, but did not have an estimate as to when water service would be restored.
River safety urged
RCMP Staff Sgt. Dan Seibel said a 72-year-old man died after being swept into a fast-moving creek near Nelson on Saturday.
Seibel said the man was checking flood water levels on his property when he was swept off a private bridge into Goose Creek.
"We can only assume at this point the water levels were such that he lost footing or he may have been on the bridge and the water was flowing at such a level that bridge was swept away," Seibel said.
On Monday, the B.C. Coroner's Service identified the 72-year-old as Edward Posnikoff, a resident of Crescent Valley, and confirmed that he was swept away when the bridge collapsed.
An evacuation order for the Pass Creek and Goose Creek area near Nelson has been lifted, but a number of residents in the nearby Slocan Valley were told to be ready to evacuate at a moment's notice.
Public Safety Minister Shirley Bond said the tragedy should also be a warning to curious onlookers and worried homeowners in flood zones. People need to be extremely careful, and should ask authorities for help in accessing flooded areas.
"If residents have concerns about their property, do not go alone. Consider instead contacting the local authorities. They have professionals and experts to provide that kind of support," Bond said.
Police are also investigating the death of a rafter during an excursion near Golden over the weekend.
The victim was pulled unresponsive from the water after the raft flipped on the Kicking Horse River, which is experiencing high-water and high-flow conditions due to spring runoff.
The rafting operator said the river met safe operating guidelines but Chris Duffy, an official with Emergency Management BC, said B.C.'s rivers are unpredictable right now.
"Carefully consider or avoid recreational activities on the water during these times, with the flows we have. Significant safety issues may exist, such as debris and unstable shorelines and and strong currents," Duffy said.
Several roads and highways throughout B.C. have been reduced to single-lane alternating traffic due to debris and washouts that occurred over the weekend, according to the provincial government's DriveBC website.
As of Monday morning, the following B.C. highway closures are in effect:
- Highway 1 is closed in both directions from Perry River to Revelstoke because of a mudslide. The road is expected to reopen Monday.
- Highway 97A is closed in both directions three kilometres south of Sicamous due to flooding.
- The Little Fort and McLure ferries are both out of service due to high water conditions.
- Highway 31 is closed in both directions north of Gerrard Bridge because of a mudslide.
- The Lytton ferry is out of service in both directions because of high water.
Flood threats continue
B.C. River Forecast Centre said the Fraser River could reach near record highs Tuesday near Prince George.
The Bulkley, Skeena and Bella Coola rivers are all under a flood watch.
High streamflow advisories have been posted for the Nechako near Prince George and the Chilcoltin River.With files from the CBC's Brady Strachan and Meera Bains