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Washed out roads and watery basements: Okanagan residents brace for more floods

Rivers and creeks continue to swell across B.C. and emergency officials are warning that conditions could be worse next week.

12 evacuation orders and 11 evacuation alerts are already in place across province

Flood danger caused the evacuation of 148 homes in Tulameen on Sunday. Many have since returned home. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Rivers and creeks continue to swell across B.C. as emergency officials warn flooding conditions could worsen next week.

As of Thursday, 12 evacuation orders and 11 evacuation alerts were in place across the province. 

In the small recreational community of Tulameen, about 26 kilometres northwest of the town of Princeton, residents have been asked to be ready to leave on short notice.

Evacuation orders

The local fire department has been working to drain water that has seeped into backyards, crawl spaces and damaged basements. 

The area has been under a state of emergency since Sunday, when 148 homeowners were told to evacuate.  Residents in 15 of those properties are still unable to go home.

Margaret Ratzlaf with the Tulameen Fire Department has been helping pump water out of nearby properties. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Fire Chief Jody Woodford says the community floods each spring, but this year, the large snow pack — which is 150 per cent above normal — makes it difficult to predict what's next. 

"And we haven't even started with the spring melt," said Woodford

A resident's basement in Tulameen is flooded. A neighbour tries to pump out the water but most of the damage has been done. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Woodford pointed to the public beach area, where the parking lot is flooded.

"You can't see the picnic tables because they're all underneath the water," said Woodford

Aerial footage captured by the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen shows the extent of the floods in the area. 

A local state of emergency was declared on April 29 , 2018 for the community, northwest of Princeton. 0:48

B.C. wildfire fighters spent two days filling up gabion baskets — large metal cages filled with sand — while emergency officials set up aqua dams — water-filled tubes which create barriers — to keep back Otter Lake. 

Residents say it's the first time they've received outside help.

The local fire department in Tulameen, B.C. brought in pumps to drain the water from properties. What was once a parking lot and local beach is now flooded. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

'Now we're back in this situation' 

In the small rural subdivision of Willowbrook, north of Oliver, residents have been feeling the aftermath of rising groundwater for some time.

Many residents' pastures in Willowbook, B.C. have flooded and are filled with horse manure. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

A state of emergency was declared in late March following record high ground water elevations in this tranquil community, where the sound of birds fills the air.

More than 25,000 sandbags line a stream of water that runs alongside a row of houses.

Willowbrook roads were dug up to make way for the water. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Parts of the road have been dug up to make room for the water to escape, forcing some property owners to access their homes by foot via makeshift bridge crossings. 

Some pastures in the area are flooded and filled with horse manure, forcing some residents to ask neighbours for a place to keep their horses.

Some Willowbrook residents asked neighbours to care for their horses after their pastures flooded. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

For the past two weeks, Michelle Weisheit's family of four has been living in a neighbour's basement.

"We've no running water at our house right now. We can't use our septic," Wesheit said. Their own basement flooded for the second year in a row.

Willowbrook resident Michelle Weisheit stands in her flooded basement. It flooded last year too, and the family of four were out of their home for four months. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

She said flooding could have been avoided, adding community members asked the province months ago to add and replace culverts.

Michelle Weisheit's basement in Willowbrook, B.C. flooded and the family had to cut two feet of drywall and remove all cabinets. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Although a Ministry of Transportation report said larger culverts would be beneficial, this year's frozen ground conditions, followed by heavy early rainfall and subsequent runoff didn't allow the installations to be made. 

"Nothing was done even though we urged them. Now we are back in this situation, that is what is the most upsetting," said Weisheit. 

'Never seen it like this'

Further downstream from Willowbook, a flooded two-lane road has become a site to behold for local residents. 

The two-lane Sportmens Bowl Road just off highway 97 is washed out. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Gail Blidook grew up in the area. "It's very unusual. I've never seen it like this before," she said. 

She and other residents come by Sportmens Bowl Road just off highway 97 to gauge how to best protect their own home.

Residents check each on the water levels in the creek beside Sportmens Bowl Road. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

People living in 17 properties have been ordered to evacuate.

In late April, the province temporarily closed Highway 97, so crews could install culverts in order to keep the water from crossing over to the highway.

Local residents say the creek that runs beside Sportmens Bowl Road is typically dry this time of year. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Kelowna residents on edge

In Kelowna, where floods hit last spring, emergency officials are busy preparing. 

Kelowna city officials say they've installed an aqua dam, nearly 10 kilometres long, along Mill Creek. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Residents like Andre Borak and his neighbours, who are still feeling the pain of damaged basements, remain nervous. 

"Everybody was flooded. So people are nervous right now, they are on edge," said Borak.

"Some people have already taken the precaution and pulled everything up. Some people have unfinished basements, so it's not a big deal but our neighbours next door just moved in and just renovated, so they're quite nervous." 

With files from The Canadian Press