B.C. flooding causes widespread damage in Interior

Residents in B.C.'s Shuswap region have been ordered out of their homes as heavy rainfall caused swollen creeks to overflow their banks, causing widespread devastation.

72-year-old swept away in West Kootenay creek

Residents in B.C.'s Shuswap region have been ordered out of their homes as heavy rainfall caused swollen creeks to overflow their banks, causing widespread devastation.

"It's devastation all around us. There's bedrock and sediment residing in the properties here on the main drag," said resident Steve Wowk. "The main road, Swansea Point Road, the top half of it is completely gone."

The municipality of Sicamous declared a local state of emergency on Saturday, affecting a handful of homes adjacent to Sicamous Creek in the Two Mile subdivision area, and issued a do-not-use water order for one water system and a mandatory water-conservation notice.

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Residents were ordered to leave their homes immediately and register at the emergency reception centre at the Sicamous Seniors Centre, located at 1091 Shuswap Avenue.

Reports indicate the flash foods on numerous creeks and rivers in the area caused the level of Mara Lake to rise as much as eight centimetres in a matter of hours.

A build-up of debris created a blockage in a culvert on Highway 97A, between Grindrod and Sicamous, causing the water to breach the banks and disperse throughout Swansea Point, surrounding a number of homes. 

'A heck of a mess'

Dan Keely, president of the Swansea Point Residents' Association, says the community has been cut off.

"There's no more Swansea Point Road. Cars are sunken into little ditches that it's made, and it's just made a heck of a mess," he said.

"It's also gone down a couple of other streets but we can't get down there," he said. "There's people [down there] but they all seem fine. The police boat was in yesterday and took a few people out — three or four, not a lot."

In addition to damage in his area, Keely says there is extensive damage in the south end of Sicamous after a flash flood on Two Mile Creek.

"It's washed out homes, it's taken homes off their foundations, it's washed out Waterways Houseboats' property — cars all over the place. It's just a mess," he said.

The flooding also forced officials to close all Sicamous area schools until further notice, including Parkview Elementary, StrongStart, the Alternate School, Eagle River Secondary and the Sicamous Learning Centre.

Officials say arrangements are being made for Eagle River Secondary students, who have provincial exams on Monday, to write their exams in Salmon Arm.

Residents are advised to check the school district website for updates.

Man swept away near Nelson

Meanwhile, rescue crews in the West Kootenay have recovered the body of a 72-year-old man who was swept into a fast-moving creek on Saturday.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Dan Seibel says the man was checking flood water levels on his property near Pass Creek, west of Nelson, at about 6 p.m. PT 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.

Heavy rain closed roads and wreaked havoc in the Kootenays over the weekend.

"This is approaching record levels," said emergency coordinator Bill McPherson.

He said more than two dozen people, mostly in the Slocan Valley, have been told to be ready to evacuate at a moment's notice.

"Some emergency orders were issued to about 30 homes impacted at various sites around the region," McPherson said. "Roads are covered in water, a couple of private bridges are impacted."

The flood waters also created hazardous water conditions in Kaslo, north of Nelson, where officials introduced water conservation measures Sunday afternoon.

The main dam protecting the village's reservoir was severely compromised by a mudslide on Kemp Creek. Water use has been restricted to interior household use, and officials recommend every household set aside a supply of drinking water.

Road closures

The weather forced the closure of roads and highways throughout B.C., according to the provincial government's website.

According to DriveBC, the following closures are in effect:

  • Highway 1 closed in both directions from Perry River to Revelstoke because of a mudslide. The road is expected to reopen Monday.
  • The Big Bar and Little Bar ferries are closed in both directions due to high water levels.
  • Highway 16 is closed in both directions eight kilometres west of the junction with Highway 5 in Tête Jaune Cache because of flooding.
  • Highway 16 closed in both directions 26 kilometres east of the junction with Highway 5 because of flooding.
  • Highway 31 is closed in both directions north of Gerrard Bridge because of a mudslide.
  • Highway 97A is closed in both directions south of Sicamous due to flooding.
  • The Lytton ferry is out of service in both directions because of high water.

Lower Fraser River reprieve

Meanwhile, an official with the B.C. River Forecast Centre says residents along the lower Fraser River should experience a slight reprieve from the threat of flooding this week.

Dave Campbell who heads the centre says a surge of water from rains in the north last week is making its way to the coast and the next surge isn't expected until next weekend.

The river peaked in the community of Hope Friday, but Campbell says weekend rains will keep water levels high.

Environment Canada says the low-pressure weather system that's adding to flooding fears around the province will stick around until the middle of the week.

David Jones says the system has been anchored off Oregon, and dumped 25 millimetres of rain on the South Coast between Friday night and Saturday morning.

With files from The Canadian Press