British Columbia

More Merritt evacuees may soon return home, while others granted limited daily access

More residents of Merritt, B.C. will potentially be able to return home by weekend, while others are being permitted limited daily access to their property as the area remains under an evacuation order.

Some residents will be able to return to their homes on Sunday pending water test results

The Coldwater River in Merritt, B.C. pictured on Tuesday, Nov. 23. Some residents may potentially be able to return home by weekend, pending water test results. (Jonathan Castell/CBC)

More residents of Merritt, B.C. will potentially be able to return home by the weekend, while others are being permitted limited daily access to their property as the area remains under an evacuation order.

In a news release on Thursday, the City of Merritt said successful flood mitigation efforts prevented further flooding during three major rain storms that battered southwestern B.C. this past week, allowing officials to move forward with their "Return Home Plan." 

The city released its three-phase plan on Nov. 22, outlining when residents can begin to return after relentless rains caused the Coldwater River, which runs through the southern Interior community, to overrun its banks, triggering the evacuation of 7,000 residents a week earlier. 

Phase 3 of the plan applies to residences south of Nicola Avenue where properties were most affected by the flooding.

But because the damage and hazards varied among properties in Phase 3, the city decided to break up the area into two separate phases, adding Phase 4.

Homes are partially submerged near Coldwater Avenue in Merritt, B.C., on Nov. 15, 2021. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Residents in Phase 3 will be able to return to their homes on Sunday if a pending water sample test comes back clean, or free of hydrocarbons and contamination.

Meanwhile, residents in Phase 4 will be permitted daily access to their properties from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. starting Dec. 2. The area is still under a "do not consume" water advisory.

Officials also warn of hazards and potential dangers in the area, such as eroded sidewalks and roads, contaminated soils, sinkholes and extensive debris.

"First responders and emergency vehicles may not be able to easily access all areas within Phase 4," the news release said. 

Phase 4 also remains under an evacuation order, meaning residents must be ready to leave their homes at a moment's notice. The city also says daily access could be suspended barring weather and river level conditions. 

Evacuation orders for Phase 1, residences north of the RCMP station on Voght Street near Central Park, and Phase 2, the area between the station and Nicola Avenue, were lifted at the end of November, although the areas still remain under an evacuation alert and boil water notice.

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