By Dale Boyd
Special to OsoyoosToday
and Andrew Stuckey
After a weekend that saw hundreds of homes temporarily evacuated in the South Okanagan, officials are now preparing for the main event as temperatures begin climbing.
Environment Canada is forecasting sunny skies and the mercury hitting 26 C by Friday, which is expected to melt the record-setting snowpack in a hurry.
“If we get three days of over 20 C that will trip that switch for freshet to start,” said Zoe Kirk, who was working Sunday as an information officer in emergency operations centre established by the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.
A rapid melt can overwhelm small streams and back up water flow — all the more so when the ground is already saturated and some creeks and rivers are already running high.
“It can also destabilize soil, roads, cause a few mudslides and landslides, rock slides,” Ms. Kirk added.
“There are some of these issues that we can’t control and we can’t see. None of us can. When it comes to rock, soil, mudslides and landslides, it’s very difficult.”
Anyone living in an area that has had any sort of water issue in the past is urged to begin preparing now by setting out sandbags, assessing drainage plans and consulting with neighbours to ensure one person’s run-off doesn’t become another’s flooded basement.
Such is already the case in the Sportsmen’s Bowl Road area north of Oliver, where 33 properties were evacuated Saturday morning when their escape route became impassable.
The evacuation order was downgraded to an alert late Saturday for most of those properties, although residents of 12 homes were still subject to the order as of Sunday afternoon.
Ms. Kirk said staff at the EOC was impressed with the overall level of preparedness on the part of evacuees, who’d been under the alert since April 10.
“People were ready and prepared that there was going to be some sort of time they might be removed from their homes,” she said. “They were the ones going in and out of there every day, watching the deterioration, same as our crews.”
The Osoyoos Indian Band also issued an evacuation order over the weekend, chasing people from 188 properties south of Water Dog Lake on Nk’Mip Road late Friday night.
Tony Baptiste, an Osoyoos Indian Band councilor, told media a landslide had blocked Nk’Mip Creek upstream.
“It’s filling up behind it, and they are saying now that it could let go, and send a lot of debris down the creek,” he explained.
However, a helicopter inspection of the creek Saturday provided officials with reason to rescind the order — at least temporarily.
As of Sunday, 16 homes in the Green Lake area also remained under an evacuation alert, while a state of local emergency was in effect for the entire RDOS Area C.
Ms. Kirk said a drainage plan was in the works Sunday for Area C in consultation with the B.C. government, opening up provincial funding opportunities.
BC Wildfire crews are also helping out at properties in Willowbrook and the Sportsmen’s Bowl area, with around 30 workers rotating through.
The RDOS is advising residents at risk to find emergency preparedness videos and guidelines, which can be viewed on the B.C. government’s website at www2.gov.bc.ca.