British Columbia

Drivers rescued after GPS detours around Hwy 97 closure leave them stranded

Penticton Search and Rescue rescued eight people over the weekend as drivers looked for alternative routes around the rockslide that has closed Highway 97 between Peachland and Summerland since Saturday.

DriveBC-approved routes expected to add an extra 90 minutes of travel each way

A landslide has closed Highway 97 in both direction between Peachland and Summerland, B.C. (B.C. Ministry of Transportation)

Penticton Search and Rescue rescued eight people over the weekend as drivers looked for alternative routes around the rockslide that has closed Highway 97 between Peachland and Summerland since Saturday.

Popular GPS applications like Google Maps and in-car services like OnStar are prompting drivers to take a backcountry route along Garnet Valley Road behind Summerland, says Penticton SAR president Randy Brown.

"What they don't understand is that everything on Google Maps is not accurate," said Brown.

He says the path along Garnet Valley Road splits in a number of different directions and that not all of the routes are maintained roads.

"It's not passable by vehicles, especially this time of year. There is no way," said Brown.

Brown says he can understand the public's desperation in wanting to find faster routes, but he is encouraging the public to stick to the recommended detours.

DriveBC says vehicles weighing five tons or less should take 201 Forest Service Rd., which is accessed off Highway 33 near McCollough Road close to Kelowna or via Warren Avenue/Carmi Avenue in Pentiction.

And it's warning drivers to expect an extra 90 minutes of travel time.

Drivers facing 5-hour round-trip commute

When Peachland resident Shelly Overend ruptured her Achilles tendon four weeks ago, she never expected her commute to her numerous doctor's appointments in Penticton to take two-and-a-half hours each way, but due to the closure, that's what she's expecting.

And the same goes for her husband who works in Penticton. 

"I would say it's a bit of an inconvenience," said Overend.  "I mean driving five hours to get a cast off, you know, it's almost half your day, right?" 

But after one of her husband's colleagues got stranded in his 4x4 on a backcountry road, she's decided to stick to the approved alternative route.

Ministry of Transportation officials used a helicopter to peform an aerial assessment of the damage on Sunday. (B.C. Ministry of Transportation)

And she's not alone, as many in the community are now turning to carpooling as an option to get to Penticton, especially for those who aren't comfortable taking the 201 Forest Service Road themselves.

The Ministry of Transportation says it could be days before that section of Highway 97 is reopened.

With files from Daybreak South and Brady Strachan

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