VANCOUVER — An emergency operations official in southern British Columbia says a forecast of warm weather has residents bracing for the possibility of more flooding from melting snow while at least one town starts bailing out.
Damage from torrential rain has already had a ”catastrophic” impact on the community of Grand Forks, said Chris Marsh of the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary.
“The effects from this event will be long lasting,” said Marsh. ”We’re talking years and years and million of dollars.”
Nearly 2,800 residents have been forced out of their homes, Marsh said Friday, adding rescue efforts have come with some challenges.
“We have a lot of people who refused to leave under order and we had to put a lot of our rescue resources into going back into rescuing these people,” he said.
On Thursday, two days of heavy rain pushed the Kettle, West Kettle and Granby rivers to levels higher than those recorded during devastating floods 70 years ago while smaller creeks had record-high flows, Marsh said.
A dike also breached in one neighbourhood, knocking out power to much of the downtown area in Grand Forks, he said.
Dan Derby, the regional fire rescue deputy chief, said getting people back into their homes as quickly as possible is one of the top priorities following assessment of infrastructure such as roads and bridges.
David Campbell, head of the B.C. River Forecast Centre, said an extended period of dry weather is expected across the province next week.
The temperature over the past three weeks has been about five degrees above normal in the Interior, and that could mean more trouble for parts of southeast B.C., Campbell said on a conference call from Victoria.
“We’re really racking up to a month of hot weather by the end of next week and that’s driven rivers up much, much earlier than normal.”
The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary said nearly 1,400 properties were ordered evacuated, with waters rising so quickly that many people were trapped in their homes in Grand Forks.
Chris Duffy, executive director of programs with Emergency Management BC, said 31 evacuation orders have been issued across the province, affecting 1,993 homes. Evacuation alerts, warning residents they may have to leave with little notice, are in place for 930 residences.
Duffy said 23 states of local emergency were also in effect and sandbag machines were brought in from Saskatchewan while firefighters were deployed to assist with sandbagging in various communities.
People should stay away from fast-moving water and not drive through areas that are flooded, he said.
“We encourage local governments and First Nations right now to be looking at activating their operation centres. As we start to consider the lower Fraser (River) we’re in dialogue with those communities so we can get some advance planning and communications in place.”