b.c. floods

‘Out of control’: Flood evacuates 54 Okanagan Falls properties

After Shuttleworth Creek breached Wednesday afternoon, a stream of water poured across 14th Avenue

“There is no such thing as control, now.”

That was the sentiment of Brad Rodgers, an Okanagan Falls resident whose property was in the direct line of water pouring out of Shuttleworth Creek Thursday morning. The creek was breached Wednesday afternoon at around 1 p.m., according to local residents, who said they did not receive help until Thursday morning.

“Oh yeah, it’s out of control,” a friend of Rodgers agreed.

“There wasn’t one cop there, and firefighters just came for a walk,” Rodgers said. “I imagine part of it was because it was dark and they didn’t know what the hell was going on.”

As he said that, his fence appeared to be deteriorating, with one section starting to come off of the rest of the fence.

Residents said the stream flowing through 14th Avenue in Okanagan Falls, just off Maple Street, increased rapidly — within a couple of hours, it went from dry to effectively a small river. By that point, Rodgers said it was too late to do anything but “wait and see.”

An evacuation order was issued shortly after that interview late Thursday morning for 54 properties due to the breach in Shuttleworth Creek.

Members of the RCMP, local fire department and B.C. Wildfire Service were all in the area working on the flooding. RCMP and local firefighters were aiding in the evacuation, while B.C. Wildfire members were working on sandbagging in the area.

Emotions were high at 14th Avenue in Okanagan Falls, and when an evacuation order was issued, a man attempted to get back to his property, despite being directly ordered against it by police. At one point police had to hold him back by both arms to keep him from going beyond the evacuation point. He was ultimately allowed into his property with an escort.
Dustin Godfrey/Western News
Emotions were high at 14th Avenue in Okanagan Falls, and when an evacuation order was issued, a man attempted to get back to his property, despite being directly ordered against it by police. At one point police had to hold him back by both arms to keep him from going beyond the evacuation point. He was ultimately allowed into his property with an escort.

Dustin Godfrey/Western News

By then, emotions were running high. After police began asking people to leave 14th Avenue to clear the way for sandbagging work, one man attempted to get back to his property. He was met with resistance from police, leading to a brief grapple between them. The man was held back by both arms momentarily before he calmed down.

He was ultimately allowed into his residence with an escort.

Sholeh Pickell, too, showed a bit of emotion as her husband trudged through knee-deep waters from behind the couple’s house, directly across the street from Rodgers, and in the line of the newly formed river. In Pickell’s husband’s hands was a kennel with her cat.

After an evacuation order is issued on 14th Avenue, among other areas, a man is seen leaving the back of his house with a cat through knee-deep water flowing strongly against him.
Dustin Godfrey/Western News
After an evacuation order is issued on 14th Avenue, among other areas, a man is seen leaving the back of his house with a cat through knee-deep water flowing strongly against him.

Dustin Godfrey/Western News

“I love my cat. We’re tight,” Pickell said with a laugh, when asked about the emotional moment her husband passed her the kennel. “Our living space upstairs was fine, so he was dry, he was fine.”

Pickell said her cat was “a pretty cool cat,” and will be fine after the ordeal.

Pickell’s house, however, is already flooded. She said while the water inside was not as high as the stream of water running across 14th Avenue, it was about the height of one stair in her house.

For some residents, one of the big worries is the weekend, when temperatures are expected to rise to the upper 20s Celsius. But Pickell only said she expected not to see any reprieve anytime soon.

“I don’t know; I’m just anticipating this is going to last a while,” she said.

A man drains his boots before getting back to the sandbagging at 14th Avenue in Okanagan Falls. Even those with high boots on were not safe from the water, which reached a couple of feet in depth in places.
Dustin Godfrey/Western News
A man drains his boots before getting back to the sandbagging at 14th Avenue in Okanagan Falls. Even those with high boots on were not safe from the water, which reached a couple of feet in depth in places.

Dustin Godfrey/Western News

Another resident was a little more lucky, albeit with worse timing. For Chris Rogers, who only recently bought a house down the block from Pickell — “I haven’t even finished painting inside of it, yet,” Rogers said — an all-nighter spent packing and placing sandbags was an unfortunate way to build relationships with the community.

“We’ve met everybody, and got to know quite a few of them pretty well,” Rogers said. “Everybody stepped in and helped. The whole block. It’s good to see. That’s the reason I moved up here is because of that community spirit.”

By around 1 p.m. Thursday, what was an uncontained flow a couple hours earlier was under control, to some degree, with a sandbag barrier blocking water from flowing onto Maple Street.

On top of that, water that was flowing across the street appeared to have abated somewhat, as crews worked at the site of the creek’s breach to create a wall of gravel with large machinery.

However, after a bridge collapsed along the creek at an end of 14th Avenue, residents worried returning water flow to the creek would cause water to pool around that bridge and send another stream across the community.

But as work continued to mitigate the flooding in that area, some residents expressed some frustration, saying the damage has already been done.

This bridge to a private property on 14th Avenue failed at some point between night time Wednesday and Thursday morning. Nearby residents said Wednesday evening — before the stream breached, diverting much of the water flow elsewhere — the creek was so high you couldn't see the bridge under the water.
Dustin Godfrey/Western News
This bridge to a private property on 14th Avenue failed at some point between night time Wednesday and Thursday morning. Nearby residents said Wednesday evening — before the stream breached, diverting much of the water flow elsewhere — the creek was so high you couldn’t see the bridge under the water.

Dustin Godfrey/Western News

Residents are being told to close all windows and doors as well as shut off all gas and electrical appliances, other than refrigerators and freezers. Residents can also close their gates (latch), but are asked not to lock them. Critical items (medicine, purse, wallet and keys) should be taken with residents if they are immediately available. Pets should be taken in kennels or on leash.

If anyone is in need of transportation assistance they can call 250-490-4225.

Evacuees are asked to check in with the emergency support services (250-486-1890) even if they do not intend to utilize housing and personal services.

Anyone with pets or livestock that need to be cared for and billeted are to contact ALERT Animal Emergency Team for support at 250-809-7152.

Report a typo or send us your tips, photos and video.

Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

@dustinrgodfrey

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