GRAND FORKS, B.C.- The threat of flooding throughout British Columbia’s Interior continued to spread Saturday as a combination of warm weather and rain drove higher flows in rivers and streams, putting several communities and their residents in harm’s way.
According to the province’s River Forecast Centre, about half of B.C. is under flood watches, warnings or advisories.
Three regions, Boundary, Cache Creek and Whiteman Creek in the Okanagans, are under active flood warnings.
The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary was the busiest region in terms of flood activity Saturday, with the City of Grand Forks declaring a state of local emergency and issuing mandatory evacuation orders for 40 properties in and around the community.
Grand Forks, located about 530 kilometres east of Vancouver, has also added 10 properties on the city’s waterfront to its evacuation alert list, as the Granby and Kettle rivers are seeing “fast-moving waters represent a significant hazard.”
Grand Forks Mayor Everett Baker said crews have been preparing all week to combat the flooding, deploying 35,000 sandbags to four strategic points within the city to mitigate the effects of high water levels.
Not all areas, however, could be protected, Baker said.
“With the rain overnight, the Kettle has certainly come up, and the Granby is slowly coming up,” he said. “So we’ve had to put some evacuation notices in the areas that we cannot protect.”
Grand Forks’ mandatory evacuation areas include 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.
The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary also has 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, remain 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 390 kilometres east of Vancouver, 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 while “at least five other locations” nearby are seeing rising levels.
The River Forecast Centre has also added new flood watches further north, with the Upper Fraser River and “tributaries upstream of Prince George” now under flood watch.
Heavy rain on Friday and Saturday, following a week of record-setting temperatures that melted the snowpack, has swollen rivers and creeks and set off mudslides.
Baker said local forecasts call for more rain in Grand Forks, followed by a stretch of warm weather early next week, none of which would alleviate the rising water levels in the region.
“We will just leave them up for as long as necessary,” Baker said of the sandbags and other flood prevention measures put in place. “ ? We are just going to leave the work stuff that we’ve done, continue to support them where we can, and watch the rivers.”
The province says it has deployed more than 200,000 sandbags to communities including Grand Forks and Cache Creek.
Cache Creek has been hit particularly hard in the last week, with water flowing through homes and businesses.
The Ministry of Transportation says it is putting equipment and materials at key locations and keeping an eye on infrastructure that may need to be reinforced.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 6, 2023.