Regional flood situation improves over weekend

Kimberley situation 'stabilized', most evacuation orders lifted region-wide

The Springbrook bridge at Skookumchuk is open to single lane traffic.

The Springbrook bridge at Skookumchuk is open to single lane traffic.

An incredibly busy period for municipal, regional district and  emergency crews across the entire region appears to be calming somewhat, at least for now.

Cranbrook would have to be considered  the luckiest community in the area with no real damage or flood concerns after the heavy rains.

In Kimberley, with no significant precipitation for the past 24 hours (at press time, Sunday) Mark Creek, while still running very fast, appears to have peaked. In the Morrison Subdivision, which was beginning to flood on Friday, June 21, water has receded. There are still a few lawns under water but the subdivision is dry for the most part.

While tap water in Kimberley looks clearer on Sunday than it did on Friday, the City has not yet lifted the Boil Water Notice.

The Kimberley situation has stabilized, says the Regional District of East Kootenay’s Information Officer Loree Duczek.

However, Mark Creek is still running quickly and residents are advised to stay away from its banks. The City also put out an advisory Friday that the walking bridge over Mark Creek by Marysville Falls may be unsafe after being pounded by water. Do not attempt to walk on the bridge. It and the boardwalk remain closed.

The highway from Wasa to Cranbrook(93/95) was still closed Sunday as flood waters were over the road in certain locations.  That traffic is diverted through Kimberley to Cranbrook.

Wasa resident James Swansburg was keeping an eye on the rising water in that community and said that on Saturday, it appeared that the highway was essentially acting like a big dike between the lake and the river.

The RDEK has delivered sand and 2,000 sandbags to Wasa and the CPR is monitoring its tracks in that area.

Waters in Dutch Creek near Fairmont dropped over Friday night and the Evacuation Order for the HooDoo Resort Campground and surrounding residences has been rescinded. Both Fairmont Creek and Cold Spring Creek remained within their channels and the situation in Fairmont has stabilized compared to earlier last week, Duczek said.  Invermere experienced only some localized flooding in low lying areas.

The Springbrook bridge at Skookumchuk has opened to single lane traffic after being closed Friday as the Kootenay River was eroding part of its support.

Access to Alberta is still very limited, especially to commercial vehicles. As of Sunday, buses and private vehicles were being allowed through from Radium to Castle Junction, after numerous slides had closed it late last week. And Highway 1 between Banff and Golden was open to private vehicles only. However, Hwy 1 east into Alberta remains closed at Canmore, which sustained severe flood damage.

Highway 3 east of Sparwood has been reduced to single lane alternating at the Michel Creek Bridge as crews work to shore up the bridge abutment which has been eroded by high waters.

The Elk Valley, Sparwood and Fernie were all under various flood watches and evacuation orders as the weekend began.

The evacuation orders for Hosmer remained was rescinded on Sunday. 88 families were out of their homes on that order.

The District of Elkford was maintaining the State of Local Emergency declared June 20th, 2013. The Evacuation Alert remained in place as of Sunday.

Duczek reported a successful rescue mission approximately 65km north of Elkford was conducted via helicopter Saturday afternoon for two individuals that were stranded since Thursday because of washed out bridges on the Elk River Forest Service Road. The individuals were in regular contact with emergency officials during this period of isolation.

Cranbrook Search and Rescue also put out a warning on Friday that Forest Service roads all over the region were considered unsafe after numerous slides and people should avoid them.

“We are getting reports of several washouts and slides across numerous backcountry roads along with some bridge washouts,” Duczek said. “Extreme caution is advised if using backcountry roads.”

The Elk River continues to recede, but further rain may increase the flow. Residents of that area are asked to stay away from the Elk River, Boivin Creek and to stay off the roads and trails north of town.

There was also concern over the weekend about the safety of the BC Hydro’s Elko Dam and Generating Station, located 70 kms southeast of Cranbrook on the Elk River.  BC Hydro notified Provincial and local emergency officials and issued a public notification on Friday that the dam was at risk of having its abutments eroded by the high water flows on the Elk River. An abutment is the structure that supports each side of the dam.  BC Hydro crews worked through the night to divert water to minimize damage.  Water levels behind the dam did recede over the weekend.

The Elko Dam is a small run-of-river facility that was built in 1924, standing 15.5 metres tall and 66 metres long.

Duczek said that the water levels experienced in this region over the past few days are higher than what occurred in the 1995 flood event.

“BC Hydro strongly urges the public to stay away from the Elk River and the low-lying land at the mouth of the river near the Koocanusa Reservoir as these areas are currently extremely dangerous and potentially life-threatening due to unpredictable water level changes.  The public is urged to respect the barriers and signs preventing access to the areas around the dam facility.”

Damage assessments will soon be underway as the transition is made from response to recovery.

“The Provincial Regional Emergency Operations Centre has applied to have this rain event approved for Disaster Financial Assistance. That process is Provincial and can take several weeks before we know if the rain event will even be approved,” said Duczek. “We are encouraging anyone who did experience damage in their homes to arrange for an assessment, take extensive photos, document damages and keep any receipts so that they have the information they need to make a claim if DFA funding is approved by the Province.”