Beavers cause of landslide stranding hundreds near Enderby, B.C.
North Okanagan district official says ice-dammed beaver dam burst Friday morning
North Okanagan District officer Jackie Pearase says a beaver dam is responsible for the mountain of debris that rumbled down a creek in B.C.'s north Okanagan on Friday, washing out a section of road and cutting power to hundreds of residents.
"An ice-dammed beaver dam burst and sent the entire contents of Dale Lake down Cooke Creek," Pearase said in an email.
There was a bridge there that is gone, completely gone like there is not even a trace of it left- Leigh Pearson, Vernon Search and Rescue
She also says a local salmon hatchery was decimated.
The Kingfisher Interpretive Centre was hit hard and the fish are not likely to survive," she said. "A terrible mess."
The washout — one of several weather-related incidents in the province — occurred at about 6 a.m. PT along Cooke Creek, about 25 kilometres east of the community of Enderby.
The slide washed out Mabel Lake Road and a bridge spanning the creek, isolating about 200 residents on the other side.
BC Hydro says nearly 700 people are without power, but crews have been working all day and officials say power could be restored by midnight Saturday.
Crews with the Ministry of Transportation are working to clear the road, and the road could be open to single lane alternating traffic for Monday morning.
Leigh Pearson of Vernon Search and Rescue said a huge amount of debris came down the creek.
"There was a bridge there that is gone, completely gone like there is not even a trace of it left," said Pearson.
"It's big. There's a lot of people trapped on the wrong side of it, unfortunately, that can't get back out."
Pearson said the slide created an "impressive" and "huge" debris field, which members of his organization searched.
No reports of injured or missing
"There were a couple of people unaccounted for but we managed to track them down and all is good."
BC Hydro spokesman Dag Sharman said four power poles came down and about 700 customers lost power, which is expected to take about eight hours to restore once workers are able to access the site.
"It's access that will cause the big delay, and so our crews can't get in there until that road is fixed enough that we can actually drive in there," said Sharman.
The washout likely occurred when debris, which was caught in the creek upstream, gave way under increasing pressure from the water, said Sewell.
He said the regional district is flying officials into the community by helicopter, and they'll be bringing along bottled water and satellite phones.
Sewell said the regional district is asking locals to conserve water and stay in their homes.
Emergency officials say no one was injured in the slide but they are keeping watch as a large amount of logs and debris flows toward Enderby.
Dairy farmer Michael Haak lives five kilometres from the slide site and says he's never seen the waterway so clogged with debris and logs.
"It was moving pretty good. It was getting hung up a little bit on the irrigation intakes, and it kinda ripped them out," he said.
The town of Enderby has activated the regional emergency operations centre.
"We are taking every step we can to be well prepared in case there is any threat to infrastructure," said Tate Bengtson, Enderby's chief administrative officer.
Spring melt brings problems
About 40 kilometres to the north in the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, seven properties remain under evacuation order after a landslide hit McIntyre Creek last month.
Cathy Semchuk of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District said a consultant's report confirmed there were some unstable areas on a local hillside so the order remains in effect.
Highway 23 north of Revelstoke and Highway 31 in the Kootenays were closed earlier Friday because of mudslides were reopened by mid-afternoon.
With files from the CBC's Brady Strachan and the Canadian Press