Special to OsoyoosToday
With the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen expanding local states of emergency due to flooding, a junior B.C. cabinet minister visited Wednesday to get a first-hand look at the situation.
“It was great to meet with folks here at the (emergency operations centre) and see people who set aside their day jobs and actually lend a hand to respond to this event,” Jennifer Rice, the parliamentary secretary for emergency preparedness, told reporters following a roundtable with local officials.
“This is, for some, going right into the second where a lot of things have been put aside in their regular day jobs.”
The EOC recently moved to an empty commercial space near the downtown Penticton headquarters of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, which late Tuesday declared new local states of emergency in Areas B, D and H, to go along with an existing declaration in Area C.
Rice said the province has already deployed 160 firefighters and provided more than two million sandbags to combat the local states of emergency declared for 16 communities across the province.
As of Wednesday, there were 11 evacuation orders and 11 alerts in place across B.C., with about 200 people out of their homes.
“We know people are still recovering from last year’s unprecedented fire and flood season… so no doubt this is a particularly trying time on people and we are here, we are listening and we are here to help,” Ms. Rice said.
Within the RDOS, there were 33 homes under evacuation orders as of Wednesday afternoon — 16 in the Sportsmens Bowl Road area north of Oliver and 17 in Tulameen.
Officials have tried to remedy the situation near Oliver by installing new culverts under Hwy. 97 to improve water flow into the Okanagan River.
“Those (culverts) are working very well, so we’re watching that closely through our contract experts as well,” said RDOS community services manager Mark Woods, who was working Wednesday in the EOC.
Also causing concern in the region have been private dams, some of which have been decommissioned or had their reservoirs drained this spring by order of the B.C. government to prevent disaster downstream in the event of their failure.
Mike Noseworthy, a senior dam safety engineer for the B.C. government, said monitoring of private dams has been stepped up as a result.
“We’re not worried about them failing at this point.”
Meanwhile, there is also disaster financial relief of up to $300,000 available for those in Willowbrook unable to obtain flooding insurance, and it’s possible the program will be expanded, according to Pete Prendergast, a regional manager for Emergency Management BC.
“If we have a major rainstorm this week and high temperatures, we can highly expect that area to be broadened,” he said.
Dale Boyd is a reporter with the Penticton Herald. OsoyoosToday and the Herald share an informal editorial use agreement.