British Columbia

Search continues for missing Kelowna woman near flooding creek, as 2 B.C. areas remain in states of emergency

Rescuers and the family of Chelsea Cardno continue to search for the 31-year-old near the overflowing waterway in Kelowna, B.C., one of two Interior communities that remain under a state of emergency because of the risk of flooding.

Chelsea Cardno was last seen going to walk her dog near Mission Greenway alongside creek, say RCMP

The mouth of the overflowing Mission Creek in Kelowna, B.C., is seen in this aerial handout photo released by emergency authorities on June 15, 2022. (Central Okanagan Emergency Operations/Twitter)

Search and rescue crews resumed what they called a "difficult" search Wednesday afternoon for a woman missing near an overflowing waterway in Kelowna, B.C.

Family members of 31-year-old Chelsea Cardno told CBC News they were also scouring the area but the river banks of the flooding creek were too unstable to allow a close approach.

Kelowna is one of two Interior communities still under a state of emergency because of the risk of flooding; the other is Sparwood, within the Elk Valley.

The City of Kelowna declared a state of emergency late Tuesday as the Mission Creek topped its banks, flooding numerous roads, yards and basements.

On Wednesday, Kelowna RCMP and Central Okanagan Search and Rescue (COSAR) said they were searching for a woman who went missing near the creek on Tuesday.

Mounties say Cardno was last seen going to walk her dog near the Mission Greenway alongside the creek.

A woman in a pink ponytail holds a young black dog.
Chelsea Cardno is seen with her German shepherd J.J. She is described as 4'11" tall and weighing 108 lbs. She was last seen wearing a blue or grey cap, a bright red puffy jacket, sweatpants and black army boots. Search and rescue teams are searching for her near the fast-moving Mission Creek. (Kelowna RCMP)

Her cousin Tanya Rudolph spoke to CBC News as she and five other family members searched the area Wednesday.

"The water is very high and very fast," she said in an interview. "It has come down a bit, so we were hopeful to kind of get some signs or something, but we've kind of come up empty-handed again."

'Don't want to be doing this'

Rudolph described Cardno as "bubbly" and "enjoying life," saying she had been out for a walk with her German shepherd when she disappeared. The dog is also missing, COSAR said.

"You definitely don't want to be doing this," Rudolph said of the family's search efforts. "We're doing OK. Hanging in there."

COSAR said they conducted ground, water, and air searches for Cardno, and told CBC News they began "re-searching" the area Wednesday afternoon after the creek level dropped, using drones, ground searchers, and a boat at the mouth of the creek. 

A log is seen floating just beneath a bridge over a fast-moving river.
Debris is seen floating down Mission Creek in Kelowna, B.C. on Tuesday. A state of emergency remains in place in the city. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

"We will be going through and re-searching areas that we did last night," said COSAR search manager Duane Tresnich. But he said fast-moving water kept searchers from safely walking along the riverbank, or from operating a search boat in the creek itself, making it "difficult for us to search."

Tresnich said during the search late Tuesday, crews rescued a "severely hypothermic" kayaker whose boat had capsized in the turbulent waters.

In a written statement, Kelowna RCMP Const. Mike Della-Paolera urged people to stay away from Mission Creek and the area being searched during the local state of emergency.

Sandra Follack, the emergency program co-ordinator for the Regional District of Central Okanagan, said there wasn't much rain overnight in the city.

However, she said rain forecast for Wednesday afternoon and night remained a concern.

"The water saturation in the mountains … is high," she told CBC News. 

"Any amount of rain we get right now could cause debris flows, which will back up creeks or cause some overland flooding."

Emergency crews were out Wednesday morning checking bridges, dikes and reservoirs in the city.

"Over the next couple of days, between less rain and the snow melting, we should be fine," Follack said. "We've just got to keep an eye on the levels as they rise."

Follack said she expects the local state of emergency in the city to remain in place for another couple of days.

Parts of Elk Valley on alert

In Sparwood, within the Elk Valley, a local state of emergency remains in place, with two mobile home parks and several other properties on evacuation alert due to surging levels of the Elk River.

A flood warning issued for the river through Sparwood and Fernie has been downgraded to a high streamflow advisory. 

The B.C. River Forecast Centre says flows remain high because of the recent storm, but the river isn't expected to reach the flood stage.

Sandbagging efforts are shown in Fernie, B.C., on Tuesday as flood advisories were posted in the region. The town's mayor said residents should remain alert. (Ange Qualizza)

"We caught a break with the forecast yesterday," said Ange Qualizza, mayor of Fernie, an Elk Valley town that was proactive with sandbagging Tuesday.

"We were downgraded from 25 millimetres of expected rain, down to 10 millimetres of expected rain, and clear skies projected for today." 

However, Qualizza said there is a storm expected on Friday, which could exacerbate the fast-flowing rivers and creeks in the area.

She urged residents to stay off the trail system and watch water levels on Wednesday.

Other alerts

The river forecast centre has also downgraded other flood watches in southeastern B.C., while watches remain in place for the north and south Thompson regions, the Shuswap area and for sections of the Quesnel River east of Williams Lake.

Despite the general easing of conditions, Emergency Info B.C. says local flooding in the southern part of the province has prompted evacuation alerts in rural Grand Forks, ongoing alerts west of Tulameen and in Harrison Mills west of Hope, as well as a localized flooding alert issued by the North Okanagan village of Lumby.

A flood warning posted more than a week ago remains in effect for the Liard River and its tributaries between Fort Nelson and Watson Lake in northeastern B.C.

A flood warning is the most serious in a three-tiered alert system used by the forecast centre and means flooding is expected.

A flood watch, on the other hand, means that river levels are rising and flooding may occur. The high streamflow advisory is the lowest of the three levels issued by the River Forecast Centre.

With files from Tom Popyk, Sarah Penton, Joseph Otoo, Joel Ballard, David Ball and Akshay Kulkarni