B.C. town swamped by historic flood braces for melting snow
Amanda Coletta, CTVNews.ca
Published Sunday, May 13, 2018 3:39PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, May 13, 2018 4:39PM EDT
A city councillor in Grand Forks, B.C., where historic flooding has submerged the town in murky water and forced the evacuation of close to 3,000 homes, has a dire warning: the worst is yet to come.
Though river levels have almost receded to pre-flood levels, unseasonably high temperatures across southern and central British Columbia are expected to melt existing snow packs at higher elevations.
The mass melt is expected to bring a second round of flooding to the town, nearly 520 kilometres east of Vancouver, sometime this week.
In a tweet on Sunday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered those affected by the flooding “any help needed.”
“We’re bracing ourselves that we’re going to be inundated again,” councillor Colleen Ross told CTV News Channel on Sunday. “Plastic and sand bags are the new décor in Grand Forks.”
A “perfect storm” prompted the floods, Ross said, citing record snow pack in the mountains, temperatures as high as 30 C in April and two days of intense rain.
The flood is the worst in Grand Forks since 1948.
The councillor described the city of about 4,000 people as “traumatized.” She said the community will need aid from both the provincial and federal governments for what she said would be a “massive and slow” recovery effort.
The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary has downgraded 74 properties from evacuation orders to evacuation alerts.
However, it said that it would be putting all of its re-entry plans on hold because forecasts and river modelling show that water levels from the second surge could be as high as those from the initial flood.
Evacuation orders remain in place for nearly 1,300 addresses.
The regional district advised residents not to enter evacuation zones, to keep sand bags in place, to avoid fast-moving waters and to be prepared to evacuate from their homes at a moment’s notice.
“Our priority is to get people back into their homes as soon as it’s safe to do so,” Chris Marsh, the emergency operations centre director and program manager for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, said in a statement Saturday.
“But we need to respect what weather and river forecasts are telling us — this flood is not over yet.”
The regional district said emergency crews will spend Sunday repairing failed dykes and pumping water from low-lying neighbourhoods. With the assistance of aerial surveys and GIS technology, they also hope to have a more complete picture of damaged areas.
Kate Saylor, a reporter with the Grand Forks Gazzette newspaper, whose building was among many evacuated, told CTV News Channel that volunteer firefighters and search-and-rescue teams are “literally swimming up to homes.”
Firefighters have rescued more than 30 people by boat in Grand Forks.
Even though the area has seen large-scale flooding in the past, “people are really still in a bit of shock,” Saylor said.
With files from the Canadian Press