Washed out roads and watery basements: Okanagan residents brace for more floods
12 evacuation orders and 11 evacuation alerts are already in place across province
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
'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.
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.
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.
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.
She said flooding could have been avoided, adding community members asked the province months ago to add and replace culverts.
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.
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.
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.
Kelowna residents on edge
In Kelowna, where floods hit last spring, emergency officials are busy preparing.
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