Central Okanagan School District staff work with George Elliot Secondary students in Lake Country to set up flood barriers on the school property adjacent to Middle Vernon Creek. With more rain expected beginning Thursday, communities throughout the Okanagan are advising similar preparations. -Barry Gerding/Black Press

Water levels continue to rise

Communities prepare for potential flooding

The City of Penticton has lifted the water quality advisory that covered a large portion of the city, but they are now warning residents to prepare for potential flooding.

Rain began to fall again Thursday morning, with expectation of thunderstorms.

Environment Canada issued a weather warning for the South Okanagan and Similkameen that 15 to 25 millimetres of rain is expected by Friday morning, with the potential for higher amounts in regions affected by severe thunderstorms.

“Given the fact rivers are already flowing quite high, any additional rainfall will create the potential of flooding,” said Matt MacDonald, meteorologist.

According to the warning, a moist and strong flow of air streaming up from the northwestern U.S. prevails over southern B.C. was expected to meet a coastal cold front sweeping across the mountains and into the interior Thursday afternoon, generating showers and thunderstorms. Combined with the spring snow melt, river and lake levels are expected to rise, increasing the risk of flooding.

“(People) should be prepared and realize that the heavy conditions we had last weekend might not end just yet. The rivers are verydynamic and there is really saturated soils out there. As well the riverbanks are loosened and unstable, so using caution is reallyimportant,” said Dave Campbell of the River Forecast Centre.

The centre reports rising lake levels in Okanagan Lake and the main stem lakes. The lake is rising about three centimeters a day and this may affect water levels downstream, including the Oliver river system, along with Skaha, Vaseaux and Osoyoos lakes.

As a precautionary measure, a self-serve facility to pick-up sand and bags will be located behind Fire Hall No. 2, 285 Dawson Ave., accessible from Camrose Street. The Town of Osoyoos is awaiting a shipment of sandbags and sand from the province, location of those will be posted to www.osoyoos.ca as soon as they are delivered. Any residents who feel their property may be at risk of localized flooding are encouraged to take advantage of this service.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen is also warning about potential flooding, and has issued a list of locations throughout the region where sand and sandbags can be obtained, available through the news and events section of their website at www.rdos.bc.ca/news-events.

The District of Summerland is also experiencing higher than usual water levels in creeks and waterways throughout the municipality and has experienced some localized flooding in the Garnet Valley area.

On Tuesday, Summerland municipal crews and equipment were used to create a berm on the banks of Aeneas Creek near the intersection of Garnet Avenue and Tingley Street as the elevated water levels caused the creek to breach its bank and pose danger to the surrounding community.

This situation was resolved but concern remains regarding high creek levels and potential flooding. The municipality advises Summerland residents that a State of Local Emergency will be declared if a flooding situation arises which poses an imminent threat or hazard to the health, safety or welfare of residents and/or action is required to limit potential damage to property. A state of local emergency provides the district with special regulations which allow for access to private property when public safety is threatened.

The City of Penticton also warns that homes located in the low lying areas with high ground water may start to see water seepage into their basements due to the higher than usual lake levels. As a preventative measure, homeowners should inspect their basement or crawl space sump pumps to ensure they are operating correctly.

All local authorities are warning that quickly flowing water and the adjacent riverbanks are potentially unsafe. Do not approach washouts near rivers, creeks and culverts, and keep away from creek and river banks. High flow volumes cause banks and some crossings to become unstable and collapse. Keep children away from waterways and keep pets on a leash.

The Regional District also recommends that if you require sandbags and do not see your area on their list, call the Emergency Operations Centre at 250-492-0237 or toll-free at 1-877-610-3737. For after-hours emergencies, call the Provincial Emergency Program at 1-800-663-3456.

Related: Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery

Related: General sandbagging information

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