Update - Evacuation order for Swansea Point lifted; order remains in effect for 2 Mile in Sicamous
Update at Tuesday, June 26 at 5:22 p.m.
A mandatory evacuation order for Swansea Point was lifted Tuesday afternoon, but the order remains in effect for 2 Mile.
Following an inspection by helicopter of Hummingbird and Sicamous creeks Monday, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District’s Shuswap Emergency Program (SEP) rescinded the evacuation order for the Swansea Point subdivision. SEP warns in a Tuesday, June 26 news release that an evacuation alert remains in place for Swansea Point.
With Highway 97A still closed at 2 Mile, Swansea Point property owners can get home by the highway from Grindrod. RCMP officers will be distributing packages to Swansea residents as they return home.
As for 2 Mile, SEP states the evacuation order stands. Evacuees will be given an extension to the support they’ve received for accommodation, food, lodging, etc.
“Residents are asked to report to the Sicamous Seniors Reception Centre to complete extension forms,” states the release. Those unable to get to the centre may call 1-250-833-3350.
Residents of Swansea Point and 2 Mile were evacuated Saturday and Sunday after Hummingbird and Sicamous Creeks turned into rampant debris flows, breaching their banks, rolling across Highway 97A and through the neighbouring communities. Approximately 250 people were evacuated from Swansea Point and 80 from 2 Mile. Another 100 to 120 were houseboaters who lost their vehicles in the 2 Mile debris flow and have been unable to get home.
“They went to the evacuation centre because their vehicles were gone. The highways are closed to their homes… so what do we do with them? We have to put them up. They have nothing,” said Sicamous Mayor Darrell Trouton.
Trouton noted there were about five people in 2 Mile refusing to abide by the evacuation order, despite efforts by him, the RCMP and the fire department’s effort to convince them to leave. He and Fire Chief Brett Ogino later heard, however, that a few more have since evacuated.
Residents of Sicamous Sands, between the Eagle River and Shuswap Lake, were served an evacuation notice Monday evening. The above photo, taken Tuesday, shows the extent of the flooding there. Georgina Kyllo photo
Sicamous Sands residents are also on evacuation alert. On Monday, water from the Eagle River was breaching its bank while the lake was seeping over sandbags in front of properties on the foreshore, and behind properties on the lagoon. Sicamous Sands manager Ken Lapp was keeping a close eye on his water pumps and power, expecting them to go any minute.
“We’ve got one lift station that’s just on the verge of crashing and that’s for here, and my power is living on borrowed time right now,” said Lapp, clearly exhausted. “The transformer is all underwater. We’ve got it sandbagged and a pump in it, so we’re living here by the minute. As soon as my alarm goes off there, we’re toast. And if the power crashes, we’re gone even worse. But there’s basically nobody here; we’ve closed the park.”
Trouton says the latest weather update shows there may be another 15 centimetres of rain in store, but assures the district can handle it.
“Lives are safe, people are safe, we’ve had a day here to start to work on plans for infrastructure, temporary, when the evacuation order gets lifted… and that’s what we’re working on right now,” said Trouton. “So when it gets lifted, we’ll be back in there and have the people in place to assess all the damage and get the residents back in there as soon as possible.”
UPDATE at Tuesday, June 26 at 11:30 a.m.
Sicamous residents are being encouraged to conserve water or risk further compromising the municipal water system.
Interior Health Medical Health Officer Dr. Trevor Corneil, said Monday afternoon that while the water is still not safe to drink, the mandator Do Not Use order was downgraded to a Do Not Consume order, adding that this applies in Sicamous as well as Swansea Point.
"The unfortunate matter with the flood water debris is that it landed near the (water) intake for the sicamous area, and that included both gas and oil, some treated sewage, some raw sewage, as well as chemicals from one of the houseboat operations…," Corneil explained at a public meeting for evacuees held Monday afternoon at the Sicamous and District Recreation Centre arena. "So, based on that, we don't actually know what the risk of the water is. Normally we're able to put a boil water advisory out and that's used to kill all the bacteria. In this case, the boil water would not get rid of any of the chemicals and things that might actually harm people, so we have placed a do not consume order on the area."
Corneil explained public works has to keep water flow going for emergency support (fire), and to keep they city's water system from collapsing. At the same time, he urged people to conserve what water there is, as it's highly turbid and will clog up the filtration system, which can also shut the water system down.
"So, if we can be careful with how much water we use, and use it sparingly, we can assure there is an ongoing flow, not just for emergencies, for fire and rescue, but also for the basics, for your family's needs," said Corneil.
Restaurants are being encouraged to use disposable plates and cutlery. And while people can wash dishes in the water, Corneil says you have to wait until they're thoroughly dried before reusing them, noting the water is still contaminated.
Also on Monday, the Provincial Emergency Program had a helicopter fly over Sicamous and Hummingbird creeks to assess their current state and if there is an impending danger of another washout. While it was unofficially announced at the rec centre that things looked positive, Sicamous Mayor Darrell Trouton explained this morning, Tuesday, June 26, that while Hummingbird looks good, PEP officials are not convinced that Sicamous Creek is safe yet.
Regarding Swansea Point, Trouton indicated PEP may be lifting the official evacuation order for that area shortly.
PEP and the Shuswap Emergency Program will be making an announcement at 2 p.m. this afternoon.
Trouton explained there were about five people in 2 Mile refusing to abide by the official evacuation notice, despite his, the RCMP and the fire department's effort to convince them to leave. He and Fire Chief Brett Ogino later heard, however, that a few more have since evacuated.
Regarding the 300 to 350 people who are said to have been evacuated, Trouton explains this includes not only residents of Two Mile, but also Swansea Point and other residents outside of Sicamous, as well as Waterway Houseboat customers who have lost their vehicle in the debris flow and haven't been able to get home.
"So what do we do with these people? They went to the evacuation centre because their vehicles were gone. The highways are closed to their homes… so what do we do with them? We have to put them up. They have nothing," said Trouton.
Monday evening, RCMP went around Sicamous Sands putting residents on evacuation alert. The Eagle River was flowing around properties on the far end of Sicamous Sands near the nature park, while the lake was seeping over sandbags in front of properties on the foreshore. Sicamous Sands manager Ken Lapp was keeping a close eye on his water pumps and power, expecting them to go any minute.
"We've got one lift station that's just on the verge of crashing and that's for here, and my power is living on borrowed time right now," said Lapp, clearly exhausted. "The transformer is all under water. We've got it sandbagged and a pump in it, so we're living here by the minute. As soon as my alarm goes off there, we're toast. And if the power crashes, we're gone even worse. But there's basically nobody here; we've closed the park."
Trouton says the latest weather update shows there may be another 15 centimetres of rain in store, but assures the district can handle it.
"Lives are safe, people are safe, we've had a day here to start to work on plans for infrastructure, temporary, when the evacuation order gets lifted… and that's what we're working on right now," said Trouton. "So when it gets lifted, we'll be back in there and have the people in place to assess all the damages and get the residents back in there as soon as possible."
UPDATE at Tuesday, June 26 at 11:20 a.m.
The Canada Day celebrations in Sicamous have been cancelled. This includes the planned fireworks display. Mayor Darrell Trouton says the event will now become part of the Aug. 11 Sicamous Sandfest, where a community appreciation celebration will take place. Fireworks purchased for the Canada Day event will be used at that time.
UPDATE at Tuesday, June 26 at 8:30 a.m.
Motorists are still being advised to stay away from Highway 97A between Grindrod and Sicamous.
As of 8:07 a.m. Tuesday, the Ministry of Transportation was reporting Highway 97A, three kilometres south of Sicamous at the Two Mile bridge, is closed because of damage flooding caused to the road Saturday.
There is no estimated time for the highway to be reopened.
The next scheduled update at www.drive.bc.ca is at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
UPDATE at Monday, June 25 at 6 p.m.
North Okanagan-Shuswap School District Superintendent of Schools Dave Witt says that due to flooding and associated safety concerns, schools in Sicamous will remain closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, but will open Thursday morning, June 28, to allow students to collect personal belongings, report cards and attend an awards ceremony. This includes Parkview Elementary, StrongStart, the Alternate Program, Eagle River Secondary, and Sicamous Learning Centre.
Buses will be picking up students in Malakwa and Solsqua on Thursday morning. If the pickup time is different than usual, you will be notified by our transportation department. Buses will depart Parkview Elementary at 10:10 a.m. and Eagle River at 11:20 a.m.
Update for Monday, June 25 at 3:40 p.m.
With a forecast for drier weather and a bit of luck, water levels in Shuswap Lake will begin to recede soon.
The lake level measured 349.31 Monday, about six inches higher than 1997 and about seven inches lower than 1972.
David Campbell with the BC River Forecast Centre said Monday afternoon that the smaller creeks in the area were improving.
"What that water is doing is working its way downhill into bigger systems like the Shuswap River, so we're expecting additional rising in that system downstream for a couple more days," he said in a media conference call. "We've seen tributaries into Shuswap Lake dropping off, but we're expecting a 5 to 10 cm rise today and into tomorrow."
Environment Canada warning preparedness meteorologist Doug Lundquist says a drier pattern of weather is moving into the area over the rest of the work week.
Update for Monday, June 25 at 3 p.m.
The Shuswap Emergency Program has issued an evacuation alert for the Silver Sands area of Sicamous due to high Shuswap Lake water levels and potential health issues due to lack of potable water and disruption of sewage disposal utilities.
All occupied dwellings on Silver Sands Road and Beach Road and all other areas north of the Trans-Canada Highway and south of Eagle River, between Shuswap Lake and the CPR bridge, in the District of Sicamous have been issued an alert.
While many residents of that area have already begun a voluntary evacuation, a formal alert means residents should be prepared to leave residences on short notice.
Residents will be given as much advance notice as possible prior to evacuation, but changing conditions may mean a short time frame for evacuation.
UPDATE for Monday, June 25 at 2:15 p.m.
All schools in Sicamous will remain closed tomorrow, June 26. More information to come.
Updated Monday, June 25 at noon
The Provincial Emergency Program and the Columbia Shuswap Regional District's Shuswap Emergency Program will be holding a meeting today at 3 p.m. at the Sicamous and District Recreation Centre arena to provide an update to the ongoing state of emergency in Sicamous.
The meeting is a public advisory meeting for residents who have been evacuated.
With a mandatory do not use water notice in effect, the District of Sicamous has potable water is available at Finlayson Park by the museum. Bottled water is also available at the Sicamous Seniors Centre, where the emergency program has set up a registration centre for those who have been evacuated.
A second meeting will be held at the Prestige Harbourfront Resort in Salmon arm at 7 p.m.
The Columbia Shuswap Regional District's Shuswap Emergency Program has declared a state of local emergency in the 2 Mile and Swansea Point areas, and an evacuation order is being enforced by RCMP.
The District of Sicamous has also issued a notice asking that residents not use water from the Mara water system.This is a mandatory order as boiling water will not make it safe for consumption.
North Okanagan-Shuswap School District Superintendent Dave WItt would like to let everyone know that due to flooding and associated safety concerns all schools in the Sicamous area (Parkview Elementary, StrongStart, the Alternate School, Eagle River Secondary and the Sicamous Learning Centre) are CLOSED until further notice.
Heavy rainfall on the evening of Saturday, June 23, caused Sicamous Creek to burst its banks and, according to SEP, create a new channel, subsequently impacting residents and businesses in the 2 Mile area.
Corey Paiement, information officer in the Emergency Operations Ccentre (EOC) of Columbia Shuswap Regional District's Shuswap Emergency Program, says some 40 homes are affected by the order.
Sicamous Mayor Darrell Trouton, who was on the scene in Two Mile Sunday at noon, said the devastating flood had already destroyed two or three homes.
Severe flooding occurred when Sicamous Creek diverted after a vehicle and other debris jammed up against a walking bridge farther downstream.
"The water flow couldn't go down to the lake, so it diverted and changed direction, flooding the Waterway Houseboats parking lot," he says. "If that wouldn't have happened, the water would have continued flowing to Mara Lake. It might have been frightening, but we wouldn't be eyeing the devastation we are now."
Shuswap Marine Freight Services has been using their barges to move people and their vehicles to safety.
He says officials had been keeping an eye on the creek that was gradually rising on Saturday and managed to get crews into the area to shut down power, water and sewer systems in case there was a break in the system.
Trouton says there are now concerns about the highway bridge and area septic systems.
"The bridge is still intact but undermined terribly," he says, noting the water is level with the bridge.
But, he adds, people are safe and the houseboat companies, RCMP, Shuswap Emergency Program and District of Sicamous are pulling together.
"People are safe, we're getting them out of there."
Meanwhile, a blocked culvert caused Hummingbird Creek overflow onto the highway at Swansea Point in Electoral Area E of the CSRD.
Paiement says there's an assessment team in the area reviewing the situation and some six homes are affected.
"In both areas, there was a tactical evacuation last night; emergency responders visited every home in the affected areas advising them of the situation," he says.
As of 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24, a local state of emergency was declared for both Swansea Point and 2 Mile.
The Sicamous Seniors' Centre located 1091 Shuswap Ave. in Sicamous is open to both people who have been evacuated or have voluntarily left their homes.
Paiement says weather wise, mother nature doesn't appear to be finished with the Shuswap yet.
Rain showers are expected over the next 24 hours, with the possibility of thunderstorms – possibly severe - later this afternoon.
"If this happens, it could include heavy rainfall of between 10 to 20 cm, accompanied by wind gusts of 50 to 60 km," says Paiement, who noted the level of Shuswap Lake at 10:30 this morning was 349.25 m, and expected to rise 25 to 30 cm over the next few days.
Anyone in need of a ride out of the Two Mile area my call Shuswap Marine Freight Services at 250-833-7677.
Sandbags are available by calling the EOC at 250-833-3350.
The News will be updating the situation as more information becomes available.
Highway 97A remains closed as work crews continue to assess the situation at 2 Mile bridge. Information on roads in the affected areas is available at drivebc.ca
Meanwhile, a warning has been issued to boaters regarding the extensive debris in Shuswap and Mara lakes. Extreme care is required.
Video: Washout at 2 Mile through the Waterway Houseboats property, by Kelly M. Dick promotions.