It might be some time before residents evacuated as Osoyoos Lake swamped their streets and neighbourhoods can go home.
The Town of Osoyoos is working on a plan to get 16 properties on Solana Key and two others on Harbour Key off the evacuation list as quickly as possible.
But up to 38 others — and another 47 recreational units inside Paradise Park — will have to wait.
“There’s a process that must be followed to ensure the safety of the residents and people are asked to be patient during this process,” said Janette Van Vianen, the Town’s Director of Corporate Services and Emergency Management point person through this season’s flooding.
“Other evacuated properties will be monitored and will be placed on the assessment list based on the lake levels, safety issues and information provided by Public Works with regards to sewer.”
The work to begin returning people to their properties comes as Osoyoos Lake continues to recede, its water level falling to 915.31 feet — as measured by the US Geological Survey at its Oroville, WA, station — late Tuesday evening.
But the Town is still warning residents to be wary.
“The lake levels, although receding right now, may still rise a bit during the week as warmer temperatures will cause more snow melt,” explained Ms. Van Vianen. “People are asked to keep their sandbags in place until the Town notifies them otherwise.”
The Town is also telling residents in the Harbour key neighbourhood who do get to go home that they cannot put water into the sewer system.
“The sewer has been shut down in the evacuated area and use of toilets, showers and doing laundry can cause backups in the neighbouring homes,” Ms. Van Vianen said.
The homes will also be without power until Fortis BC makes its own determination to plug them back in again.
Some good news did come from the province’s River Forecast Centre Tuesday afternoon.
The Similkameen River’s flow is falling and B.C.’s flood threat is dwindling, floodwatch officials said as the latest snowpack bulletin was released.
The new data, current as of May 15, pegged the Okanagan basin snowpack at 126 per cent of normal, down from 206 percent on May 1, and the Similkameen basin at 56 per cent of normal, down from 201 percent just two weeks ago.
As a result, “the risks that we see through the Boundary and Similkameen and Okanagan are really declining now from snowmelt alone,” said Dave Campbell, head of the B.C. River Forecast Centre.
He suggested the worst of the flood threat is over for small- and medium-sized water bodies, meaning all eyes will now be on major systems — such as Okanagan and Shuswap lakes, and the Thompson and Fraser rivers — for the next one to three weeks.
Inflow from tributaries to the Okanagan River south of Penticton “has also fallen off,” added Shaun Reimer, who manages the Okanagan dam system, “and this has allowed us to increase our outflows through the Okanagan Lake dam.”
Chris Duffy, the executive director of Emergency Management B.C., said there were approximately 700 properties across the province under evacuation orders as of Tuesday afternoon, down from several thousand last week.
Those properties still evacuated include dozens around Osoyoos Lake and Keremeos.
Meanwhile, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen on Tuesday rescinded evacuation alerts for 263 properties in the Similkameen, 131 properties north of Oliver and 54 properties in Okanagan Falls.
It did, however, evacuate nine properties in the Twin Falls community.
In Osoyoos, Mayor Sue McKortoff is talking of a town event to celebrate the community’s effort to keep the lake at bay.
“We can’t be too quick to start saying hooray,” said Mayor McKortoff. “But I do think we need to do something in this town when we kind of get things back to semi-normal to thank so many of the people who did so much.”
— with files from the Penticton Herald