B.C. flooding prompts evacuation of homes
Last Updated: Tuesday, June 5, 2007 | 10:15 PM PT
Heavy flooding has triggered evacuation orders on Tuesday for dozens of homes in northern British Columbia.
Residents of 26 homes in Smithers in northwest B.C. and 10 residences in Prince George in north-central B.C. were told to leave because of rising waters from the swollen Bulkley, Fraser and Nechako rivers.
The Fraser River has overflowed its banks, flooding a Prince George park and threatening nearby homes.
City officials have also expanded the local state of emergency for some low-lying areas of Prince George.
Meanwhile, at least 30 homes have been flooded in low-lying areas around Terrace. People living in 260 homes in the area have been issued evacuation alerts, and alerts have also been issued for more than 1,000 people in Langley and Maple Ridge near Vancouver.
Earlier, Highway 16 was closed between Terrace and Port Edward, near Prince Rupert, virtually cutting off Terrace. The road is also closed 37 kilometres east of Terrace, the site of last week's rockslide.
Further north, Telegraph Creek Road was washed out by flooding, leaving 300 residents of that area cut off.
The warm temperatures and rain have seen the Skeena, Bulkley, Nass and Fraser rivers rise rapidly in the past few days.
Many roads and back roads have already been washed out in the area, including 25 kilometres of the Nisga'a Highway between Canyon City and Greenville.
An evacuation alert was issued Tuesday morning for Braun Island, New Remo and low-lying areas of Queensway and Dutch Valley — all in the Terrace area.
More than 50 people had already left their homes near Terrace voluntarily as the Skeena River rose.
Most families have now left the tiny community of Usk, as ferry service was suspended. The backup cable car service was also stopped because it was travelling less than three metres above the river, which is carrying huge trees and debris.
Many residents of Old Remo and members of the Kitselas band also left their homes because of road washouts.
Emergency officials have opened a reception centre in the community hall in Thornhill, and are asking everyone to check in.
The Ministry of Transportation had been keeping a close eye on sections of the main highway between Terrace and Prince Rupert, where the Skeena has risen dramatically.
The back road into Gitanyow [Kitwancool] was closed by flooding, and residents have been sandbagging the other road into the community.
Schools send students home
Some students in the community were sent home from school early on Monday because of fears school buses would be stopped by flooded roads.
The Bulkley River has flooded farmers' fields and the golf course in Smithers. The low-lying Ebeneezer Flats-22nd Avenue Road along the river has been closed due to flooding.
No evacuation order has been issued, but some families in the area along the river left their homes Monday voluntarily.
The 'Ksan First Nations museum near Hazelton had to sandbag its totem poles and truck out artifacts.
Officials say that by the weekend, the upper Fraser could reach its highest level since they began measuring back in the 1950s.
Public Safety Minister John Les flew over the river on Tuesday, and noted the unprecedented conditions remind him of the situation leading up to the flood of 1972.
He added that everything that's happening on the upper Fraser will be hitting the Fraser Valley four days from now.
Meanwhile, Via Rail says the flooding in northwestern B.C. has made the Prince George-Prince Rupert rail line impassable; however, crews are working on the problem.
No Via passenger trains were scheduled to run Tuesday, but the northern rail line is heavily used by CN freight trains. CN has shut down freight service between Smithers and Prince Rupert.
Officials have also issued a flood watch advisory in B.C.'s Southern Interior for the North Thompson River, north of Kamloops.
There's already some minor flooding around Clearwater and Birch Island, and the RCMP say there could be road closures in some areas. That flooding is expected to worsen in coming days due to a rainfall warning.With files from the Canadian Press
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