British Columbia·Video

Evacuation alerts and orders being downgraded in B.C. as flooding fears begin to ease

Hundreds of properties in southern B.C. remain under evacuation orders or alerts Monday afternoon after a weekend of continued snowmelt, thunderstorms and rising rivers created serious flooding concerns.

Entire West Kootenay watershed was under flood warning; most of Central Kootenay on evacuation alert

A playground in Grand Forks is surrounded by floodwaters Monday afternoon. (Corinne Seminoff/CBC)

Hundreds of properties in southern B.C. and dozens more in the Fraser Valley are under evacuation orders or alerts Monday after a weekend of continued snowmelt, thunderstorms and rising rivers created serious flooding concerns.

Officials from several regional districts believed the worst of the turbulent weather had passed Monday, with Environment Canada forecasting dry conditions, but they still warned residents should be on alert should conditions change.

"I really hesitate to make any kind of predictions at this point because ... we've been on such a roller coaster," said Frances Maika, information officer for the Regional District of Kootenay-Boundary, discussing the situation near Grand Forks.

"These things are very difficult to prognosticate on."

The Great Northern Rail Trail in Ymir, B.C., was destroyed by the Salmo River after weekend flooding in the Kootenays. Much of the region remains under flood watches or warnings on Monday. (Geoff Fontes/CBC)

The largest number of evacuation orders were in the West Kootenay, where the entire watershed was under flood warning. Such a warning means river levels have exceeded their banks or will do so imminently, according to the B.C. River Forecast Centre.

The entire Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK), with the exception of Castlegar and Nelson, was under an "unprecedented" evacuation alert. By 5:30 p.m. PT Monday, however, all orders had been downgraded to alerts.

Anderson Road in Golden, B.C., north of Nelson, was closed Monday due to flooding. The area is one of several under a flood warning. (TranBCRockyMtn/Twitter)

There are also orders in place for 189 properties in Grand Forks, in the Kootenay-Boundary region, as well as surrounding rural areas. Another order is in place for a property in Cawston, near Keremeos, where the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen has declared a local state of emergency.

On top of concerns for swollen rivers and surging creeks, officials were also worried about debris and landslides on Sunday. In Crawford Bay, northeast of Nelson, an unsteady dike above the village forced 44 families out of their homes.

Sandbags are prepared in Grand Forks, B.C., on Sunday. (Bob Keating/CBC)

Evacuation orders are in place for the following areas of the Kootenays of 6 p.m. PT Monday:

Evacuation alerts are in place for the following undiked areas of the Fraser Valley of 6 p.m. P

T Monday:

Residents and visitors whose homes are under evacuation orders must leave the affected areas immediately. They should check the evacuation order for a list of addresses affected and instructions on where they should go. 

Memories of 2018

Maika said in Grand Forks, evacuation orders focused on rural areas of town near the confluence of the Granby and Kettle Rivers.

Fortunately, by mid afternoon, it appeared the rivers had peaked.

In 2018, Grand Forks was hit by historic flooding. Thousands of people were forced to evacuate and many properties were simply bought out and had their structures torn down.

"Seeing the waters come up again, there's all kinds of effects on people emotionally," Maika told Radio West host Sarah Penton.

"People are remembering what happened and it's very difficult."

Maika said since 2018, local governments and residents have learned a lot about floods and had better plans in place for 2020 and executed them better as well.

The regional district is not opening reception centres due to COVID-19. Evacuees are encouraged to stay with friends or family if possible. Residents will be contacted directly by B.C. Emergency Support Services.

Fraser Valley also on alert

The Fraser Valley Regional District placed more than 50 properties in areas unprotected by dikes on evacuation alert. The district said the danger was due to high water levels on the Fraser River.

Much of the Nicomen Island area and the entire Harrison Bay Resort and RV Park are included in the bulletins. 

The district said the public should use extreme caution near waterways, "especially the banks of the Fraser River."

Heavy rains, thunderstorms

The Regional District of Central Kootenay remains under a local state of emergency.

Heavy rains pummelled the region over the weekend, churning blue rivers into a murky brown.

A flood watch is in effect for the Slocan River, Salmo River and surrounding tributaries Monday as water levels are rising and could breach the banks. (Lisa Johnson/CBC)

Environment Canada had previously warned a thunderstorm moving north from Washington state could cause rising rivers, downed trees and flash flooding.

District resident Shelby Sandford said she was ordered to leave her home in Crawford Bay, on Kootenay Lake, Saturday evening.

A tiger dam is installed in downtown Grand Forks, B.C. on Sunday. (Bob Keating/CBC)

"I had been excited all day to watch the storm,"  Sandford said. "I guess it's one of those 'careful what you wish for' type of situations."

Dan Elliott, the district's communications co-ordinator, said snowmelt caused by hot weather, plus rain, created unprecedented water levels Saturday and Sunday.

"It just happened to be, really, a perfect storm of weather. Hot weather on Friday and Saturday followed by severe thunderstorms on Saturday evening," Elliott, told CBC's Daybreak South on Monday.

With files from Bob Keating, Liam Britten and CBC's Radio West and Daybreak South


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