British Columbia

No heat or potable water in Princeton, B.C., as locals brace for freezing temperatures after flood

The southern B.C. community of Princeton declared a state of emergency Monday as river water from the Tulameen and Similkameen rivers swamped the town of 3,000. Now, crews are scrambling to get water and heat back to homes in preparation for below-freezing overnight temperatures and the chance of snow.

Chance of flurries and –9 C overnight forecast for hard-hit Similkameen community

A car in Princeton, B.C., was almost completely submerged by noon on Monday. The community is scrambling to get potable water and natural gas to homes in the wake of a devastating flood that swamped half the town. (Tom Popyk/CBC)

The town of Princeton, B.C., remains in a state of emergency after days of relentless rain caused extreme flooding, and now the scramble is on to get heat and water working in the community again as the mercury drops and freezing temperatures add to the emergency situation.

Half the town is under water after extreme rains pushed the Tulameen and Similkameen rivers to overflow their banks and dikes on Monday, forcing people to evacuate 295 properties and creating a state of emergency in the community of 3,000, located 190 kilometres east of Vancouver.

About 300 properties are still on evacuation alert. The flooding led the local health authority to evacuate long-term care residents from Ridgewood Lodge on Tuesday afternoon.

"The Princeton General Hospital emergency department remains open at this time," a spokesperson said in a statement. "Anyone wishing to confirm their loved one's evacuated location can call 1-877-442-2001."

Mayor Spencer Coyne told CBC News on Tuesday that a gas line that supplies the natural gas needed to heat local homes broke on Monday. On Tuesday morning, the water system stopped working.

Environment Canada is predicting a 60 per cent chance of rain or snow flurries in Princeton on Tuesday and a low of –9 C overnight.

Coyne told Early Edition host Stephen Quinn the gas line will not be repaired in time. He said municipal crews were trying to get water pressure back on Tuesday so they can fill local reservoirs and get water to residents.

"We have more pumper trucks coming in today, so we'll have an entire fleet of pumper trucks that will be keeping that flow in as best we can," said Coyne, who described the situation as "hectic."

"Our No. 1 priority right now is trying to get water back up and running," he said.

WATCH | Princeton Mayor Spencer Coyne says town is 'resilient': 

'Princeton people are resilient,' says mayor

18 days ago
1:39
Spencer Coyne, mayor of Princeton, B.C., spoke about the hardships the people of his town have been enduring over the past 24 hours. 1:39

Princeton will need provincial support, money: mayor

Gordon Swan, the chair of School District 58, said Princeton schools are currently closed and being assessed for damage.

Some of the district's school buses were used on Monday to help move evacuees out of Merritt, which is located about 90 kilometres north and had to evacuate 7,000 of its residents from the city.

Coyne said water levels have started to drop in the rivers, but he is unsure how rebuilding will start.

He said the dikes and infrastructure along the river will also need to be assessed for damage, and experts may need to be brought in from elsewhere to help determine what else needs to be done to rebuild the town and how to do it.

Coyne told CBC News that water levels were about 150 centimetres higher than the previous worst flood in memory, which hit the town in 1995. Some people, according to Coyne, have almost 2½ metres of water in the downstairs of their homes.

The mayor thinks his municipal team will need to call on the provincial government to help with the aftermath.

"We're going to need support, and somehow we're going to need money," he said.

A swollen Similkameen River outside Princeton, B.C., on Monday. (Submitted by Misty Oceanna)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bridgette Watson is an associate producer and writer at CBC Vancouver. You can reach her at Bridgette.Watson@cbc.ca or @Beewatz on Twitter.

With files from The Early Edition and Akshay Kulkarni

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