Water is expected to force the closure of Highway 3 in several spots when the Similkameen River rises again laster this week. (File photo)

b.c. flood

May long affecting Okanagan-Similkameen flood preparations

Hotels fill up as RDOS seeks emergency lodging; residents with medical needs should self-evacuate now

The May long weekend is tossing a bit of a wrench in emergency operations in the South Okanagan-Similkameen, where officials are expecting major flooding later this week.

Flooding in the Similkameen and on Osoyoos Lake “will happen,” according to Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen chair Karla Kozakevich. The question of “how much” remains to be seen, however, and Kozakevich said individuals with medical needs should be self-evacuating immediately.

“We know we’re going to have flooding with Osoyoos Lake and Similkameen River. That will happen; we just don’t know the extent of it,” said Karla Kozakevich, Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen chair.

“The over-2,000 homes on evac alert now through our region, we will be moving some of those homes to an order. We just don’t know the numbers right now that will move to an order. … A lot of it right now is preparing for the worst.”

Related: Temperatures soar to record-breaking heights in Kelowna, Vernon

The water in Osoyoos Lake has receded a little less than a foot in the past two days, but officials expect the lake to rise significantly in the coming week, as unseasonably hot weather melts much of the snow in higher elevations.
Image: U.S. Geological Survey/Screengrab
The water in Osoyoos Lake has receded a little less than a foot in the past two days, but officials expect the lake to rise significantly in the coming week, as unseasonably hot weather melts much of the snow in higher elevations.

Image: U.S. Geological Survey/Screengrab

Provincial officials warned last Friday of more water woes with unseasonably hot weather expected to stick until the middle of the week. That will likely cause significant melting in higher-elevation areas in mountain ranges, where the majority of the snow has yet to melt.

Officials expect the flooding to be strongest around Thursday and Friday, making some unfortunate timing. The Victoria Day long weekend is coming up, and that is typically the kickoff to tourism season in the region.

“With a long weekend, a lot of the hotels are booked, and there will be a shortage of accommodations, so we’re working on branching out even wider to find accommodations,” Kozakevich said.

Related: Evacuation alerts expanded in Similkameen

So far, Kozakevich said about 200 people have required emergency accommodations, but many of the homes evacuated in the region are summer homes and have been unoccupied.

Anyone looking to offer up accommodations — or volunteer in anyway, including sandbagging — should call the RDOS emergency operations centre line at 250-490-4225.

That number should also be contacted immediately by individuals, or family and friends thereof, who have medical needs.

Related: Okanagan-Shuswap flood watch to intensify over next week

“We need to get them moving out of their homes potentially now in the Similkameen or Osoyoos area. Those may be people that need dialysis, use oxygen tanks,” Kozakevich said.

People who are hesitant to leave their homes because of their pets should call the EOC line, and the RDOS will attempt to find accommodations for those pets and livestock, Kozakevich said.

A Monday RDOS news release noted only those with health and mobility issues within the evacuation alert areas will be eligible for food and lodging assistance at this time.

Related: Prepare now for Highway 3 to close when river rises

“The Similkameen River, I think it’s expected to go up to 800 or maybe even 900 cubic metres per second,” said Keremeos Mayor Manfred Bauer. “I would say 350 cubic metres we started out. We went up to about 700 (last week). There is cooler weather to be expected by about Thursday, Friday, so this could have a large impact on how fast is this coming down.”

Officials still aren’t certain how much of an impact that could have on flooding in the region. After floods caused the closure of Highway 3 for days last week, Bauer said some measures were put in place in that area, including gabion walls.

But an RDOS release noted Highway 3 “will likely be closed in multiple locations” as flooding ramps up this week.

“Closure of Highway 3 will potentially strand residents, and people with health issues, pets or livestock need to prepare to self-evacuate,” the RDOS release said. “Nickel Plate Road, from Hedley to Apex Mountain, is washed out and currently impassible.”

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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

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