As water level rises, so does frustration as B.C. Interior residents criticize off-season flood prep

Dozens of residents affected by flooding in B.C.'s Interior say there wasn't enough done over the winter to help residents prepare for the spring.

Residents at public meeting question why more flood preparation wasn't done earlier in the season

Two residents hug at a community meeting in Grand Forks, B.C., on Tuesday night. Widespread flooding across the Interior has devastated communities. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

It's not only water that's rising in B.C.'s flood-wracked Interior. 

Residents' frustrations are also swelling, with some saying there wasn't enough done over the winter to help residents prepare for the spring flood season.

At a public meeting in Rock Creek on Tuesday night, dozens of frustrated residents packed the community centre.

Melissa Elsom and her family say they weren't alerted by officials in a timely manner.

"We didn't see one fire truck, emergency vehicle, nobody. It was clear at that time there was a huge problem at the West Kettle [River]," Elsom said.

At separate community meetings Tuesday night, some residents from Rock Creek and Grand Forks expressed frustrations about the emergency response to the massive flooding taking place in their communities in B.C.'s Interior. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

The same sentiment was echoed by her partner Randy Moat.

"Last year, I can't say enough about the support that we received prior to the disaster of the flood," Moat said.

"This year, I received our evacuation order from the member of the RCMP eight hours after the peak on West Kettle."

While Moat was able to get out with his family and livestock, he said for anyone less able it would have meant a tough time.

Barbara McLelland from Ruckle, B.C., detailed the extensive damage in her house.

"My stove [and] my oven had water in it. The bottom of my fridge, the freezer on the bottom, that had water in it," McLelland said.

"I've lost pretty much everything that was in the house."

Other residents at the meeting questioned why more wasn't done earlier in the season, especially when it was widely reported that snowpacks were higher than normal this winter.

Merritt residents on flood watch

The Nicola Lake dam, which plays a large role in flood control for the city of Merritt, was already "at maximum" capacity Tuesday.

Rapid snowmelt is pushing river levels higher, and there was a forecast of rain for the region by Wednesday, raising the possibility of water overflowing the dam.

"If it goes over, we're going to be in trouble," said Merritt Mayor Neil Menard.

Around 90,000 sandbags have been handed out in Merritt in recent days. The city is preparing for the worst, with hot weather in the forecast that will melt much more of the nearby snowpack over the weekend.

The run-off would go straight into swollen river, feeding the dam.

Brenda Visser, who lives in Merritt's mobile home park, said this year's flood is "more destructive" than last year.

She said officials should've done more during the off-season.

"Nothing has been done. It's just getting worse and worse and worse," she said.

"They should have taken action from the beginning instead of doing Band-Aids now."

Merritt residents are being advised to keep sandbags in place until water levels recede completely. (Courtesy of Eleanor Ware)

Menard said the city "can only do so much."

"You got the lock blocks and you've got the sandbags, and we've gone to the max in terms of putting them in place and looking after them," he said.

"Mother Nature got ahead of us. What do you do?"

Province on high alert

About 2,000 homes around the province are under an evacuation order, with another 2,600 on evacuation alert.

Emergency Management B.C. said the Boundary region and Similkameen Valley have already seen significant flooding, while risks are also high across the Okanagan and Shuswap regions.

Politicians and officials in the hard-hit southern Interior of B.C. are asking for help from the army to work on flood recovery.

On Tuesday, the Township of Langley issued evacuation alerts for parts of Glen Valley, Brae Island and McMillan Island as the Fraser River rises.

It was the first evacuation alert of the 2018 flood season for any community near Metro Vancouver.

With files from Tina Lovgreen, Belle Puri and The Canadian Press


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