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B.C.: Evacuation alerts, orders being downgraded as flood fears ease

Tuesday, June 2nd 2020, 5:02 am - Entire West Kootenay watershed was under flood warning; most of Central Kootenay on evacuation alert

Hundreds of properties in southern B.C. and dozens more in the Fraser Valley were under evacuation orders or alerts Monday after a weekend of continued snowmelt, thunderstorms and rising rivers created serious flooding concerns.

Officials from several regional districts believed the worst of the turbulent weather had passed Monday, with Environment Canada forecasting dry conditions, but they still warned residents should be on alert should conditions change.

"I really hesitate to make any kind of predictions at this point because ... we've been on such a roller coaster," said Frances Maika, information officer for the Regional District of Kootenay-Boundary, discussing the situation near Grand Forks.

"These things are very difficult to prognosticate on."

cbc bc flood A flood watch is also in effect for the Slocan River, Salmo River and surrounding tributaries as water levels are rising and could breach the banks. (Lisa Johnson/CBC)

The largest number of evacuation orders were in the West Kootenay, where the entire watershed was under flood warning. Such a warning means river levels have exceeded their banks or will do so imminently, according to the B.C. River Forecast Centre.

The entire Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK), with the exception of Castlegar and Nelson, was under an "unprecedented" evacuation alert. By 5:30 p.m. PT Monday, however, all orders had been downgraded to alerts.

Kootenays/CBC Sandbags are prepared in Grand Forks, B.C. on Sunday. (Bob Keating/CBC)

There are also orders in place for 189 properties in Grand Forks, in the Kootenay-Boundary region, as well as surrounding rural areas. Another order is in place for a property in Cawston, near Keremeos, where the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen has declared a local state of emergency.

On top of concerns for swollen rivers and surging creeks, officials were also worried about debris and landslides on Sunday. In Crawford Bay, northeast of Nelson, an unsteady dike above the village forced 44 families out of their homes.

Evacuation orders are in place for the following areas of the Kootenays of 6 p.m. PT Monday:

  • North and South Johnson Flats
  • Highway 3 east side business area — nursery area
  • Properties on Darcy, Jmayoff and Gilpin Roads
  • Chopaka Road in Cawston
  • Rural Grand Forks — Johnson Flats and Manly Meadows
  • Rural Grand Forks — Granby Road

Evacuation alerts are in place for the following undiked areas of the Fraser Valley of 6 p.m. PT Monday:

  • Electoral Area C — around Nicomen Island, including Harrison Bay Resort and RV Park
  • Electoral Area G — Deroche and Dewdney areas
  • Residents and visitors whose homes are under evacuation orders must leave the affected areas immediately. They should check the evacuation order for a list of addresses affected and instructions on where they should go.

MEMORIES OF 2018

Maika said in Grand Forks, evacuation orders focused on rural areas of town near the confluence of the Granby and Kettle Rivers.

Fortunately, by mid afternoon, it appeared the rivers had peaked.

In 2018, Grand Forks was hit by historic flooding. Thousands of people were forced to evacuate and many properties were simply bought out and had their structures torn down.

"Seeing the waters come up again, there's all kinds of effects on people emotionally," Maika told Radio West host Sarah Penton.

"People are remembering what happened and it's very difficult."

Maika said since 2018, local governments and residents have learned a lot about floods and had better plans in place for 2020 and executed them better as well.

The regional district is not opening reception centres due to COVID-19. Evacuees are encouraged to stay with friends or family if possible. Residents will be contacted directly by B.C. Emergency Support Services.

This article was originally published by CBC News, with files from Bob Keating.

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