State of local emergency declared in Cache Creek as rivers swell, washing out roads

Flooding continues to plague B.C.'s central Interior as temperatures warm and high snowpacks begin to melt, causing rivers and streams to rise, overflow and wash out roads.

B.C. experts predict flooding could reach record levels next week

Water overflowed the banks of Cache Creek and Bonaparte Rivers over the past few days, but by April 29, the flow receded a bit, allowing villagers time to assess damage. (Briar Stewart/CBC)

Flooding continues to plague B.C.'s central Interior as temperatures warm and snowpacks melt, causing rivers and streams to rise, overflow and wash out roads.

Floodwaters have closed several B.C. highways, but the worst spot so far is Cache Creek, located about 350 kilometres northeast of Vancouver, where the local fire chief died last year after being swept away by flood waters. 

The village of Cache Creek B.C. is already battling overflowing river banks and the spring runoff is expected to double in the next week. (Andrea Walker/Facebook)

John Ranta, Cache Creek's mayor, said a state of local emergency was declared Friday night.

"There's debris all over the street and it's quite a mess," he said. He is urging residents to lay down sandbags and brace themselves.

"The people here have demonstrated their resilience time and time again. Weather conditions are what dictate our life here."

Water levels peaked Friday night, but receded somewhat on Saturday. Ashcroft RCMP Sgt. Kathleen Thain said anybody working near washouts on Friday had to wear flotation devices, or they were not allowed to cross the swift-flowing runoff.

She's urging people to stay clear of any flooding, especially near riverbanks.

Water erosion can undercut stream bank soil more than a meter inland, making shores unstable.

People can easily drown in the swift-flowing water even if it's shallow, she warned.

"When the water does crest and go overland [people] need to stay away," Thain said.

Overflowing water from the Bonaparte River and its tributaries fill a yard in Cache Creek, B.C. this week. (Andrew Walker/Facebook)

Lisa Balouch, manager of the village's Sunset Motel, can see the swelling water from her front window.

She said her husband looked out on Friday and saw the water breach the banks of the Bonaparte River.

"He looked out and said 'Up! There it goes,' and it was pouring out pretty good," she said.

Record flooding on the way

Dave Campbell of the B.C.'s River Forecast Centre, which measures snow basins across the province, said computer modelling shows the Bonaparte River could be on track for record flooding by the middle of next week.

The village of Cache Creek B.C. is already battling overflowing river banks, and the spring runoff is expected to double in the next week. (Andrea Walker/Facebook)

And flooding season is only beginning. 

"We still have a couple of months left of this," he said.

​The volume of water flowing into the Bonaparte River is expected to double in the next week, potentially hitting a 90-year high, in part because of wildfire damage, he said. Culverts are already overwhelmed and some streets are impassable.

Campbell said the places at the highest risk are near smaller mid-elevation rivers and streams, especially near Williams Lake, Quesnel, Cache Creek and Merritt. There are also vulnerable areas in the Okanagan.

Water rushes past a tree in spring bloom and a trailer in Cache Creek this week. (Andrew Walker/Facebook)

"The critical period might be the next week or so," Campbell told CBC.

A hot temperature streak that melts snow too fast could spell trouble, he said.

Thirteen properties near Oliver B.C. have been evacuated due to the risk of mudslides. On Friday that evacuation order was expanded — by one more property, which affected 16 separate addresses.

A release from the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen warned:

"Everyone should stay well back from all creeks and rivers in the southern Interior. Flash flooding, failure of slopes and debris flows can occur, making even small creeks dangerous. Areas where forest fires have occurred will be especially unstable due to the loss of vegetation destabilizing banks."

On Saturday afternoon, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen issued an evacuation alert for 58 properties in the Tulameen area.

Road closures due to washouts

  • Highway 8 is reduced to single-lane alternating traffic 24 kilometres west of Merritt due to a washout.
  • Highway 3A and Highway 97 is reduced to single-lane traffic in both directions due to a mudslide 18.5 kilometres east of Keremeos.

For a list of current road closures around B.C. visit DriveBC.

The village of Cache Creek was hit hard by overflowing riverbanks in the past few days, but Mayor John Ranta said culverts are handling the water better on April 29. (Briar Stewart/CBC)

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly included a photo of a washout on Highway 97 from 2016. It has been removed.
    Apr 29, 2018 12:54 PM PT

About the Author

Yvette Brend

Yvette Brend is a CBC Vancouver journalist. Yvette.Brend@CBC.ca @ybrend

With files from Deborah Goble