'The water keeps rising': South Okanagan community fights off floods

Regional district officials declare a local state of emergency following flooding in the area of Willowbrook, south of Okanagan Falls, B.C.

Flooding in Willowbrook, B.C., prompts local state of emergency

Flood waters have inundated several structures in the South Okanagan community of Willowbrook, B.C. after recent heavy rains (Brady Strachan/CBC)

People are scrambling to protect their properties as regional officials in the South Okanagan declare a local state of emergency following flooding in the small community of Willowbrook, B.C.

The community is located south of Okanagan Falls and west of Vaseux Lake. 

Water has flooded Brenda Boye's barn and yard and is nearing her family's home in Willowbrook, B.C. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

"The water keeps rising. We've had about three inches accumulate since midnight," said resident Brenda Boye.

"The water has spread over all three of our fields and we have sandbagged around our house. We gave up on the barn."

She says two acres of her property — which she just bought last summer — are now underwater. She's had to move chickens, horses and hay.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen declared the state of emergency Tuesday due to the threat of flooding and possible damage to properties in the vicinity of Kearns Creek, said Paul Edmonds, emergency services director, in a release.

He said provincial agencies are now on the ground assessing culverts and local dam infrastructure.

Landowner Bent Rasmussen has been ordered by the province to draw down a reservoir on his property that has swollen with recent rainwater (Brady Strachan / CBC)

'The dam could breach'

The provincial government issued a draw down order on the Kearns Creek dam near Willowbrook late Monday. 

On Tuesday the owner of the dam, Bent Rasmussen, said he'd already drawn down his reservoir about 25 centimetres. 

"The concern is that the dam could breach. We are going to follow orders," Rasmussen said.

"We would be liable, if we don't do this." 

Residents of Willowbrook, B.C. fill sandbags to fight off flood waters that have inundated properties and structures in the South Okanagan community. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

The Emergency Operations Centre is posting updates on social media with the latest information for residents.

Armstrong state of emergency rescinded

Meanwhile, also effective Tuesday, the City of Armstrong rescinded its declared state of emergency following flooding in the North Okanagan late last week.

A number of properties flooded — including a seniors' home — when Meighan Creek rose after a night of heavy rain.

"The seniors' home was really affected, they had two or three inches of water in all of the basement suites," said Armstrong Mayor Chris Pieper.

He said a number of residents are in cleanup mode, while others are taking precautions by sandbagging their properties.

Sandbags are still available free of charge at the Public Works Yard on Patterson Avenue.

"It's only March and we normally get our serious flooding in May, so I would ask all residents to prepare as much as they can," said Pieper.

"I am quite sure that this is just the start of many events to happen throughout the spring ... I don't like what I see in the future."

With files from CBC's Radio West and Sarah Penton