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Grand Forks, B.C., residents work to save properties from flooding

Grand Forks residents are working around the clock to try to keep as many properties dry as possible, but in many cases, the floodwaters can't be stopped.

Dirty floodwater has washed over downtown streets, soaking many businesses

Most businesses in downtown Grand Forks were unable to keep the floodwater out. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Residents of Grand Forks, B.C., are working around the clock to try to keep dry as many properties as possible, but with water reaching historic heights, many homes and businesses are filling up with dirty floodwater.

The water crested in the downtown area overnight, but remains much higher than the levels seen in 1948, the last time the town experienced terrible flooding.

Crews are sandbagging wherever possible and trying to find enough generators to keep pumps going with the town's power knocked out due to a flooded substation.

Grand Forks is dealing with water from both the Granby and Kettle rivers. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Stuart McGregor stayed awake for more than 24 hours as he worked to keep his restaurant, Thyme and Plate, dry and all the food refrigerated.

"[I've] been up all night manning pumps. We had tons of help yesterday, I mean dozens of trucks and people coming to help sandbag. We might have gone a little overboard, but we're dry, so we're good," McGregor said Friday.

"I've walked up and down and pretty much everybody's flooded here, so we're just lucky, I guess," he said, adding that most businesses other than his have basements that have filled up.

Stuart McGregor was awake for more than 24 hours, as he worked to protect his restaurant, Thyme and Plate, from the floodwater. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)
McGregor fiddles with a pump outside his restaurant. He says the water isn't the threat so much as the loss of electricity, which could mean his stored food will spoil without generators. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"Now, the power's down here in town, so our next worry is, we've got $15,000 worth of product in the fridges and freezers that we need to get out of here or get some electricity to."

McGregor said he expects the hot weather and snow melt in the area will bring the water back up before everything dries up.

"I've lived here since I was six years old, now I'm 40. I've never seen anything like this at all," he said. "It was bad in the '90s once — I haven't seen anything like this, so this is pretty epic."

A woman wearing garbage bags around her lower legs gets a lift on a pickup truck. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Just outside the downtown area, a large group of volunteers — many of them children and teens whose classes were cancelled on Friday — were filling sandbags.

Jackson Phipps, 16, was in the crowd, sweating in the heat. The teen estimated he had filled more than 500 sandbags in the last few days.

"I feel good, but I am worried about everyone else, because I don't know where they're going to go," said Phipps, adding that his family's home was dry.

Jackson Phipps, 16, has been helping to load sandbags. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)
A small army of volunteers packs sandbags outside the emergency centre that has been set up. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Phipps said Omega, the downtown restaurant where he works, is flooded and closed, so he can't go to work.

"Everyone downtown. It's all under water. People are getting evacuated," he said.

Frances Maika, information officer for the Regional District of Kootenay-Boundary emergency operations centre, said emergency responders have shifted to carrying out rescues in many cases, where people who chose not to leave their homes are now struggling, since the pumps they were relying on have lost power.

Frances Maika, information officer for the Regional District of Kootenay-Boundary emergency operations centre, says emergency personnel are now busy rescuing people who didn't leave their homes and have now lost power. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"Now, they're trapped in their homes, so we have ongoing rescue of a number of residents," said Maika, adding that the firehall downtown has also been inundated.

"There's some good news stories here, in that we have not had reports of injuries — we've had close calls," she said.

According to Maika, many residents have checked in at the emergency shelter, but she couldn't say exactly how many. Most, she said, appear to be finding places to stay with friends or family.

A man rides a bicycle in the dirty floodwater inundating downtown Grand Forks, as a crew sandbags a business in the background. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Maika said crews are assessing damage, and it's not clear how many of the 160 local residences that were under evacuation order were actually cleared out.

"The emergency responders have been unbelievable; they've been staying up day and night," she said, adding that the end still isn't in sight.

"The water levels aren't necessarily going to come down quickly ... this is going to be with us for a while."

A hose from a pump sprays water into the air above the floodwater that has washed over Grand Forks. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker

About the Author

Rafferty Baker

Rafferty Baker is CBC Vancouver's mobile journalist. Follow him @raffertybaker

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