Hot weather heightens B.C. flood risk, families trapped by high water

Thousands of British Columbians remain under evacuation orders as warming temperatures combine with rain and melting snow to create historic flood conditions across wide areas of the province.

Thousands remain under evacuation orders as officials continue to monitor water levels

The Kettle River near Grand Forks, B.C., peaked Thursday night at 60 centimetres over record levels first set in 1948. (Regional District of Kootenay Boundary)

Latest updates

  • Officials say 30 rescue events have taken place around Grand Forks
  • 2,700 residents affected by evacuation orders
  • 23 local states of emergency have been declared
  • More flooding expected next week as warm weather arrives
  • Kootenay Boundary and south Okanagan regions hit hard
  • Several washed out highways reopen

Thousands of British Columbians remain under evacuation orders as warming temperatures combine with rain and melting snow to create historic flood conditions across wide areas of the province.

Most of the flooding is in the Southern Interior, including the Similkameen, south Okanagan and Kootenay Boundary regions, where residents are reporting floodwaters up to two metres deep.

One of the worst hit communities is the West Kootenay city of Grand Forks, where floods have reached historic levels.

The regional district says an unknown number of people are trapped in their homes, prompting a flyover by emergency officials on Friday.

A water rescue team has been deployed. As of Friday afternoon, the district reported over 30 rescues.

Water stood at least a metre deep in some downtown streets last night, shutting down Highway 3 through town to low clearance vehicles.

Residents of Rock Creek, B.C., were sandbagging to save a home on Thursday evening as floodwaters continue to hit large areas of the Interior of the province. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

In the Okanagan region, flooding is also reported in the Cawston and Okanagan Falls areas, and in Osoyoos officials have ordered residents to immediately stop pumping any flood water into the sewers to avoid overwhelming the towns wastewater system.

Highway 8 was closed 10 kilometres west of Merritt after floodwater washed out the road. 

Warmer weather in forecast

CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe said the forecast is for a ridge of high pressure to build this weekend, pumping hot, dry air into the Interior.

"Temperatures for the weekend and Monday will be roughly five to 10 degrees above the seasonal average for the Southern Interior, hitting the 30s by next week," Wagstaffe said on Friday morning.

As the temperatures rise in the mountains a substantial amount of snow in the alpine areas is expected to start melting, bringing more flooding next week.

David Campbell, head of the British Columbia River Forecast Centre, said many areas across the province are nearing their flood record.

"It will be a gradual build over the next couple of days," he said. "In a number of areas, we're kind of near that cusp.… Is there enough snow to keep these rivers high?"

He said the snowpack in low elevation flood areas have melted, but mid-to-high elevation areas are still at risk.

"It's that in-between middle elevation zone that we're maybe a little bit uncertain of how this hot weather is going to influence things," he said.

In downtown Grand Forks in B.C.'s Interior the water has flowed across Highway 3. (Bob Keating/CBC)

More than 2,700 people under evacuation order

More than 2,700 people were affected by the orders, with many struggling to salvage what they could and fortifying their properties.

The Emergency Info BC website listed evacuation orders or alerts in seven regional districts and for eight First Nations around the province on Friday morning including:

The following communities have issued flooding-related Evacuation Alerts or Orders not currently available online:

  • Nazko First Nation
  • Nooaitch Indian Band
  • Westbank First Nation
  • Xat'sull First Nation (Soda Creek First Nation)

For the latest updates check the EmergencyInfoBC flooding webpage.

Some of the worst flooding in B.C. is in the Kootenay Boundary region where water overwhelmed an RV park east of Rock Creek on Thursday. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

Flooding threat in Fraser Valley

Flooding is also a concern outside of the Interior.

The province encouraged local governments and First Nations communities along the lower Fraser River to prepare for potential flooding.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farthworth said the province is monitoring the water levels and has activated the South West Region Emergency Centre in Surrey.

"Even if temperatures cool, and we get additional rain, that can also aggravate soil and dikes that may be saturated," he said, adding that the province will roll out dike patrols starting next week.

Current conditions:

Kootenay Boundary region

Almond Gardens is among several communities battling flooding in the Kootenay-Boundary regional district. (Regional District of Kootenay Boundary)
  • West Kettle, Kettle and Granby rivers reached record levels overnight.
  • Waters flooded hundreds of properties, knocked out power in a large area of Grand Forks and trapped an unknown number of residents in their homes.
  • Emergency officials conducted a flyover on Friday to determine the number of people trapped by high water and assess damage.
  • An additional evacuation order was issued Friday for properties in the Almond Gardens area.

Okanagan-Similkameen region

Ross Zahrabi blames beaver dams for water backing up onto his property near Oliver, B.C. (Brady Strachan/CBC)
  • Evacuation orders remain in effect for properties in Osoyoos and Summerland.
  • An evacuation order has been rescinded for all homes in Okanagan Falls along Shuttleworth Creek.
  • Highway 3 west of Keremeos has opened after getting washed out, but is subject to additional closures pending flood conditions.

Thompson-Nicola region

Floodwater surrounds this home in Lower Nicola Valley. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)
  • Highway 8 east of Merrit is open to single-lane, alternating traffic after being shut down due to a washout.
  • Evacuation alerts remain in effect for properties in the Lower Nicola Mobile Home Park and  Marshall Road.

With files from The Canadian Press

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