British Columbia·Photos

'It's beyond belief': Ranching community flooded as rainwater overwhelms Chilcotin River

The Chilcotin River below Big Creek and its tributaries are roaring with brown, stirred-up rainwater after seeing 90 millimetres of rain over the past four days.

Public advised to stay away from bulging rivers, potentially unstable riverbanks

Ranches in Big Creek, B.C., are flooded with brown, silty water from the Chilcotin River in early July. Resident and pilot Randy Saugstad took these photos from his own plane over the weekend. (Randy Saugstad)

Ranches in B.C.'s Central Interior have suffered extensive flood damage after 100 millimetres of rain fell in the area over the past five days.

The Chilcotin River below the ranching community of Big Creek and its tributaries are roaring with brown, stirred-up rainwater as a result of the rain.

A flood warning is in effect for the river, near Williams Lake, B.C.

"Every rancher has suffered major, major flood damage," said Randy Saugstad, one of about 50 ranchers who live and work in Big Creek.

"We have a creek through our place that normally you can step across. It went absolutely crazy on Saturday. Now it's 100 feet [30 metres] wide and many feet deep. There are washed-out buildings."

Another ranch in Big Creek, B.C., this week. A flood warning is in effect for the area after 100 millimetres of rain fell in a matter of days. (Randy Saugstad)

Video posted on Facebook from the area shows grown trees being carried down the whitewater river and swaths of water creeping over lakes and farm fields.

The B.C. River Forecast Centre issued its flood warning on Monday. The centre said the public should stay out of "the rapid flow in the rivers and potentially unstable riverbanks."

The centre said it's likely such flooding would only occur once every 200 years.

Saugstad said he and his neighbours trucked rocks to the riverbank to try to stop the barrage of water, though access around the community has been limited because some of the few roads are washed out.

Saugstad, a trained pilot, flew his plane over the damage on Monday to survey the damage.

"It's beyond belief. There's so much water everywhere. Whole ranches underwater. Every field. Beyond belief," he said.

Another resident, Joan Fisher, is stuck at her home because roads around her are flooded. She's also caring for dozens of livestock and pets and says neighbours have been using four-by-fours to bring her food and supplies.

"I've lived here for years and years and years. And it's only ever happened once before," Fisher said of the flooding, referencing another deluge in 1990 that knocked out a bridge in the area.

Officials asking residents to call

Saugstad said he started reaching out to provincial and regional officials over the weekend for help, without luck.

On Tuesday, Cariboo Regional District spokesperson Emily Epp said officials were alerted to the flooding situation by the River Forecast Centre.

"They assess these things and then advise us," she said.

Epp said the district doesn't "have a clear picture" of how many properties are affected but an emergency operations centre has been activated.

"We're asking residents to call us at 1-866-759-4977 so we can get a better sense of who's impacted ... and assess their individual needs and provide direct support," Epp said.

Thunderstorm in forecast

Environment Canada said thunderstorms that could bring more rain are in the forecast for Tuesday. The forecast centre said the Chilcotin River level is expected to rise slightly Tuesday and peak later at night.

The Chilcotin empties into the Fraser River around 50 kilometres south of Williams Lake.

With files from CBC Daybreak Kamloops and CBC Radio West

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