British Columbia

Dry spell spares much of Okanagan from expected flood

The big weather system that was supposed to hit the region on Thursday and Friday night did not materialize as expected, but the risk of flooding has homeowners considering flood insurance.

But risk of flooding makes flood insurance more appealing to homeowners

Emergency and public works crews in Kelowna monitored flood-prone areas but managed to dodge a bullet, as the heavy rain that was expected did not not materialize. (Christer Waara/CBC)

Though much of the Okanagan was largely spared the massive flooding that weather forecasts were predicting as a possibility last weekend, it seems flood insurance is now an increasingly appealing choice for some homeowners.

"The big weather system that was supposed to come through Thursday and Friday kind of skirted around us so that was good news for us over the weekend," said Jody Foster with the Emergency Operations Centre for the Central Okanagan.

The River Forecast Centre says flood watches are now down to high streamflow advisories for the Nicola River near Merritt and for the Salmon River in the Shuwap, east of Kamloops.

High streamflow advisories have ended for the Kettle River in the Boundary region and the Bulkley River and its feeders around Houston, Telkwa and Smithers in northwestern B.C.

In the northeastern part of the province, a flood warning remains in place for the Beatton River, and flood watches are still in effect for the Moberly, Halfway and parts of the Peace rivers, although Environment Canada forecasts an end to showers by Wednesday.

Foster said officials are still assessing the risk at Okanagan Lake, which is sitting at just 35 centimetres below the flood mark, with much of the heavy snowpack still unmelted.

Foster says the creeks continue to add water.

"Even though the creeks are of reduced concern, you need to leave sandbags in place," she advised.

"Boaters are reminded that with lake levels so high, they should really watch for the floating debris and also they should be driving very slowly anywhere near the shorelines to make sure there isn't an additional wave action to the beach."

Flood insurance — but not for everyone

The weekend's activities and preparations have inspired some homeowners to consider buying overland flood insurance — which is protection from an influx of water following rain or an overflowing stream.

Aaron Sutherland, the Pacific Region vice president for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, says it's a new product on the market that some companies have been offering.

"We've seen things like severe weather events happening more and more ... The 2013 floods in Alberta were really a wake-up call in our industry. We know these events are going to happen, and they've been happening with increased frequency because of our changing climate."

Although 90 per cent of homeowners in Canada would be able to purchase such coverage, he said, not everyone would be able to do so — particularly those who live close to, or on, flood plains.

"Insurance prices are based on risk, so it will vary on that," he said.

"About 10 per cent of homeowners can't get flood coverage because their homes are at high risk of flooding."

Furthermore, Sutherland said, when climate change is a real risk, it's time to start thinking whether houses should be built on flood plains in the first place.

"It might not make sense to be building in these changing areas," he said.

With files from Daybreak South

With files from The Canadian Press