Residents of several B.C. communities remain on evacuation alert as the Fraser and Thompson rivers threaten to breach their banks.
In the Fraser Valley, evacuation alerts were issued for areas of Langley, Abbotsford and Hope not protected by dikes, warning residents to be ready to leave their homes at a moment's notice.
On Thursday morning an evacuation alert was also issued for Barnston Island where sandbagging was already underway to protect homes in the farming community and the Katzie First Nation. Officials say some unprotected homes are at risk, but the river is not expected to breach the dikes.
The forecasted timeline for the lower Fraser River to crest has been moved forward, with the head of the B.C. River Forecast Centre predicting the high will occur late Thursday.
"We've got rapid rising going on now and it's going to continue," David Campbell said.
"The peaking itself, once we get into the higher flows, the rates of rise slows down and then you hit the peak and then it's held elevated for some time."
Langley prepares for flooding
Roeland Zwaag, director of Langley public works, said an evacuation alert was issued when river levels reached about 5.5 metres in Mission, and the river levels are expected to peak at about one metre higher.
"We're asking people to plan," he said. "In case you are requested to relocate, have some alternate accommodations ready, family or friends. As we are dealing with the farming community, as there are livestock involved, be prepared to move the livestock to a safe area. Have an emergency kit ready."
Historic River levels
- 1894 - 8.9 metres (current design level of dikes)
- 1948 - 8.2 metres
- 1972 - 7.1 metres
- 1999 - 6.3 metres
- 2007 - 6.0 metres
Source: B.C. River Forecast Centre
The Langley Township alert extends into the Glen Valley area of Abbotsford, in regions where there are no dikes.
Nearby, Mission fire chief Ian Fitzpatrick has been monitoring the water gauge each morning and afternoon.
He said about 25 homes and about another six at a nearby trailer park were situated in risky areas, along with several mills and manufacturing fabrication shops.
The scenario is similar to 2007 when wetter weather and a large melting snowpack were to blame for increased preparations, Fitzpatrick said.
"If we just had the direct snowmelt, without any other effects on the river, we'd probably be fine. But it's these weather patterns that come in and give us the unknown. I think that's going to be the problem this weekend."
No panic for some
Not everyone is overly concerned about the rising river though.
"I feel it's not going to be as bad as they think it's going to be," said Bill Cunningham, who lives about 150 metres from the Fraser River in Langley. "We're slowly getting ready to move whatever."
The 77-year-old said he's lived in the neighbourhood all his life and has experienced similar flood concerns about once a decade. The worst he recalls was in 1948.
"We might have to move out because it'll be a little difficult getting in and out because of water," he said, before getting in his car with his wife to go stay at his daughter's home. "But I don't think it'll even be that bad."
Cunningham lives among 147 homes in an unprotected swath of land that also snakes through farm properties and industrial businesses, which could also be at risk. The rest of the region is not vulnerable to flooding thanks to hefty dikes.
South Thompson rising in Kamloops
Rising water on the South Thompson in Kamloops is also threatening homes near the swollen river.
The city has activated its Emergency Operations Center, closed flooded parks and boat launches and is supplying people near the river with sandbags, according to city spokeswoman Tammy Robertson.
Flood watches, warnings and advisories
- Fraser River (at Prince George and upstream, and downstream from Quesnel to Fraser Canyon) – Flood Warning
- Shuswap River downstream of Mabel Lake (near Enderby) – Flood Warning
- South Thompson River and Shuswap Lake – Flood Warning (upgraded)
- Thompson River (including Kamloops area and Kamloops Lake)‐ Flood Watch (added)
- Quesnel River – Flood Watch
- Nechako River near Prince George – High Streamflow Advisory
- North Thompson River and tributaries – High Streamflow Advisory
- Lower Fraser River - High Streamflow Advisory
Updated 9 a.m. PT by the B.C. River Forecast Centre
"We are just advising residents to be aware of what's happening in your area and to be making preparations if waters are coming up close to your home."
Robertson says the river is expected to rise 20 centimetres over the next 24 hours, but she says rain in the forecast for the region could push the river even higher.
Richard Gale's house is one of several in the Dallas area of Kamloops surrounded by sandbags. On Wednesday night the river was about 25 centimetres from spilling over a retaining wall and flooding his home.
"If it comes over that wall I'm just gonna pack my family up and grab as much as I can and, you know, stay at somebody else's house," Gale said.
Gale says he hasn't gotten much sleep lately because ground water is already seeping into his basement and he is keeping five pumps running to push it back out.
"Yeah, if a pump fails, it's panic time," said Gale.
Further north in Prince Geoge, the river peaked at 10.02 metres early Wednesday morning.