British Columbia

Evacuation orders issued near Terrace as Skeena River threatens to flood small communities

The Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine has issued an evacuation order for three small communities near Terrace as the Skeena River continues to rise after a weekend of heavy rain and snowmelt.

Dozens of residents in Old Remo, New Remo and Usk ordered to leave homes by Sunday evening

The City of Terrace activated its emergency operations centre on Wednesday in anticipation of possible flooding. (Carolina de Ryk/CBC)

The Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine has issued an evacuation order for three small communities near Terrace as the Skeena River continues to rise after a weekend of heavy rain and snowmelt.

Residents of Old Remo, New Remo, and Usk were told to leave their homes by 8 p.m. PT Sunday. The district issued an evacuation alert on Thursday. 

The communities, built on low-lying flood plains, have faced flood crises over the past two decades. Old Remo was flooded in 2002, 2007 and 2017, seeing roads washed out and dozens of homes evacuated.

After a weekend of unpredictable rain and thunderstorms, fears of flooding are increasing in northern B.C., but subsiding in the southern Interior.

A house in New Remo, B.C., is shown surrounded by high water in June 2021. (Janet Munson)

On Sunday, the B.C. River Forecast Centre released its latest assessment of the provincewide flood risk.

The Liard River and its tributaries around Fort Nelson have been upgraded to a flood watch. The river is flowing at two-year highs at Lower Crossing, and at 10- to 20-year highs upstream at Scurvy Creek in Yukon. 

David Campbell, hydrologist with the B.C. River Forecast Centre, told CBC Radio Monday morning said the north is experiencing a double-edged sword of rainfall and snowmelt right now.

"There's lots of snow there and it's really showing up in terms of the volume of flow in the rivers," said Campbell, adding the next two to four weeks will be a period of heightened flood risk.

Hydrologists are maintaining a flood watch for the Skeena River and Bulkley River watersheds, and have issued a high streamflow advisory for the Swift River and other streams in the province's northwest.

Environment and Climate Change Canada is forecasting 15 millimetres of precipitation for Smithers, with more precipitation possible at higher elevations. Rain falling on a melting snowpack in the mountains increases the risk for rapid river rises, the B.C. River Forecast Centre warned in its update.

The areas in yellow are under a high streamflow advisory, and the areas in orange are under flood watch as of Sunday afternoon. (B.C. River Forecast Centre)

Hydrologists had put parts of the southern Interior on a flood watch on Saturday, as thunderstorms moved through Interior mountains still heavy with winter snowpack.

On Sunday, conditions in the east Okanagan, Kettle River and Lower Nicola River were downgraded to a high streamflow advisory. 

Campbell said the bulk of the snow has already melted in the southern Interior and, at this point, river forecasters are primarily keeping an eye on precipitation predictions in the coming weeks.

"River levels have been dropping," said Campbell. "We're really just kind of continuing to watch that rainfall and hopefully we don't see too much more."

The Boundary Region, Upper Fraser Region, Thompson Region, Coldwater River, Similkameen River, Tulameen River, Salmon River and other parts of the Okanagan and Nicola River remain under a high streamflow advisory.

The B.C. River Forecast Centre has yet to issue a flood warning, its highest risk assessment, in June. 

The agency warns that erosion and riverbed damage caused during last year's floods could create unpredictable local risks of flooding during this spring freshet. 

The Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine has already issued evacuation orders for three communities and hydrologist Dave Campbell provides an update on the situation province-wide.

With files from The Early Edition

now