The threat of flooding in British Columbia’s Interior began to recede on Sunday, though residents of several communities remained under evacuation orders as officials warned that conditions could deteriorate.
About half of B.C. was under flood watches, warnings or advisories, after heavy rain late last week and a bout of record-setting temperatures that melted the snowpack.
A statement from the Ministry of Forests said rainfall over the weekend was less severe than anticipated and that rivers that “had challenges” last week were expected to stabilize in the coming days.
However, the statement warned that warmer weather expected for later this week was expected to accelerate snowmelt, which “may introduce increased risk.”
The City of Grand Forks, located in southeastern B.C. about 530 kilometres east of Vancouver, declared a state of local emergency on Saturday and issued mandatory evacuation orders for 40 properties in and around the community.
Waters in both the Kettle and Granby rivers, which meet in the village, are running fast and represent a significant hazard, said Mayor Everett Baker.
“I went out this morning and toured some of the flood sites,” said Mr. Baker. “The river is up a little bit; but so far, the sandbags and tiger dams are holding. That’s great news. Right now, it’s a watch and see. There’s no rain today, and the sun is shining. So, our fingers our crossed.”
Mr. Baker said he expected the Kettle River to crest on Sunday.
“We’re not out of the woods yet, but we’re better off than we were yesterday. The problem is, there’s still snow in the mountains. That’s got to come down.”
Mr. Baker said crews have been preparing all week, erecting roughly 35,000 sandbags at four strategic points within the city to mitigate the effects of high water, but not all areas could be protected.
Grand Forks’s mandatory evacuation areas included 34 properties in the Johnson Flats neighbourhood south of the city, as well as six properties to the city’s east, near Grand Forks Airport.
There were also active flood warnings in Cache Creek and Whiteman Creek in the Okanagan.
Cache Creek was hit particularly hard, with water flowing through homes and businesses.
Mayor John Ranta said that one house was lost in Cache Creek, and there was damage to the fire hall, but he was feeling optimistic that the worst may be over.
Mr. Ranta said much of the water threatening the village was diverted to an emergency channel dug by two excavators on Saturday.
“They got the water in the channel, and we’re optimistic it will remain that way through the melt,” he said.
Mr. Ranta said he doesn’t believe much snow still remains in the alpine, given how much water has already come through the village.
It was raining steadily in Cache Creek on Sunday and more precipitation was forecast for Monday and Tuesday. However, a period of dry weather is slated to begin Wednesday, and run to at least next weekend.
The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary also had active evacuation alerts for communities such as Fruitvale, Christina Lake and Midway.
In the nearby Regional District of Central Kootenay, properties in the community of Vallican, 660 kilometres east of Vancouver, remained under a mix of evacuation orders and alerts.
However, threat levels alleviated enough for officials to rescind the evacuation alerts in the village of Salmo, its neighbouring communities of Erie and Ymir, as well as for several properties in Duhamel Creek.
In the Okanagan region in the province’s Interior, an evacuation alert remained in place in Okanagan Falls properties adjacent to Shuttleworth Creek, while the Okanagan Indian Band has issued an evacuation order for a small number of homes along Whiteman’s Creek.
The River Forecast Centre also added new flood watches further north, with the Upper Fraser River and tributaries upstream of Prince George now under flood watch.
With a report from The Canadian Press