FORCES ARRIVE AS B.C. INTERIOR BRACES FOR MORE FLOODING
1,500 properties are under an evacuation order
GRAND FORKS, B.C. • The first wave of 140 Canadian troops is set to help B.C. communities overwhelmed by floodwaters.
Staff from Joint Task Force Pacific and personnel from the 3rd Canadian Division based in Edmonton are expected to be deployed to areas such as Grand Forks in the southern Interior, where 1,500 properties are under an evacuation order and a second round of high water is imminent.
In the nearby subdivision of Ruckle, Celinda Galloway was told to leave her home, but she and her husband Ryan, along with about 20 other residents, are defying the order in an effort to save their homes.
“We’re trying to protect our homes, the ones that aren’t compromised, and we’re doing it in a safe manner,” Galloway said. “Obviously they want us out,” but “our homes are salvageable.”
Galloway said she and her husband built a berm of dirt and sandbags to protect their home from rising floodwaters, adding they’ve had some mud and water seep into their basement, but damage has otherwise been minimal. “If we left, nobody would have pumped our basement out.”
Soaring temperatures over the last week caused rapid melting of extremely heavy snowpacks, swelling many rivers in B.C. to flood stage. An estimated 4,500 people have been forced from their homes, and forecasts are calling for emerging flood risk for communities along the lower Fraser River, from Hope to Vancouver.
Federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Ralph Goodale said members of the armed forces will help with evacuations, sandbagging and property protection.
B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the government asked for help and is happy to have the troops.
“They will be deployed to the areas of greatest need. Obviously the southern Interior, Grand Forks for example, is a key community. Their job will be to assist in the local efforts, in terms of such things as protecting important infrastructure, assisting in evacuations, sandbags, things of that nature.”
Environment Canada issued special weather statements Thursday covering the entire southeastern corner of B.C., including the flooddamaged Boundary region, warning of thunderstorms that are expected to add more water to local waterways.
Forecasters predict as much as 40 millimetres of rain by Friday and there’s concern about added damage from heavy downpours.
The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary said properties along the banks of the surging Kettle River are at risk and more evacuation orders are possible.
“Last week, the Granby station picked up 52 millimetres of rain that was not in the forecast,” said Frances Maika, a spokeswoman at the district. “Sometimes you can get these isolated showers, and if we get that, the river forecast model completely changes.”
Floodwaters could surpass levels from the first round of flooding, she said.
Maika said she understands residents’ frustration but safety is the priority.
“It’s a low elevation area that was at definite risk of harm coming to people who remained there,” she said of the Ruckle neighbourhood.
The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary gave residents a 12-hour window to return to their homes to pick up any valuables.
School District 51, which operates eight elementary schools, two secondary schools and a development centre in the Boundary region, closed all schools Thursday because of the potential for more flooding.
A state of local emergency was in effect across the entire neighbouring Regional District of Okanagan-similkameen, which posted on its website that provincial agencies are closely monitoring the levels of Osoyoos Lake and preparing for evacuation orders if required.
In the Regional District of Central Kootenay, east of Grand Forks, evacuation alerts were expanded along Erie Creek and the Salmo River, while firefighters from across the district were sent to the village of Salmo to help with sandbagging in anticipation of flooding there.
The Salvation Army said it was sending teams to support evacuees, volunteers and first responders across the province.
A Salvation Army Community Response Unit has been deployed to help feed and relieve those affected by the floods, and a team is in Vernon providing refreshments and snacks to firefighters preparing sandbags, the charitable organization said Thursday.
B.C. Premier John Horgan said the province will match Canadian Red Cross donations up to $20 million, for those most harmed by the flooding.
Resident Lars Androsoff carries his friend’s guitars as he makes his way through floodwaters Thursday in Grand Forks. As much as 40 mm of rain is expected by Friday.