In a community still reeling from the impacts of the November 2021 flood, residents are bracing again for high water. Tulameen and District Fire Chief Jody Woodford told the Spotlight that all homes along the Tulameen River, including those in Coalmont, are at risk of flooding during the annual freshet.
These places are not unused to spring flooding. Notably, in 2018, 148 properties were evacuated and the remaining 157 homes in the area were put under evacuation alert.
While the previous major flood event was in 2012, Tulameen experiences some flooding each spring.
According to Woodford, the effects of the unexpected flood late last year present new challenges. “The damage from the November and December floods eroded Tulameen River banks and changed the river’s course. It now threatens homes throughout the valley.”
Additionally, the floods also destroyed much of the KVR trail, which provided protection to homes and farms from the Otter Valley through Tulameen, Coalmont and Princeton.
Otter Lake is muddy and contains debris and heavy sediment, said Woodford. “There is no infrastructure to protect properties and homes, or plans to build any at this time.”
Freshet normally impacts the Tulameen area in April, and presently lake and creek levels approximate those of last year.
“My concern for this freshet is that with the damage, flooding will occur more quickly and in new areas throughout our valleys. We all need to be aware and be prepared,” she said.
“Tulameen can flood from high lake levels brought on by spring freshet that flows throughout the Otter Valley.
“This is overland flooding. There is also ground seepage flooding that occurs due to underground water pressure from high Otter Lake levels.
“The water literally percolates up through the ground in various parts of the community.”
A Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS) press release, issued in February, stressed individual property owners are responsible for their own flood mitigation.
“In British Columbia, property owners are responsible for taking the necessary steps on their property to protect their home and property from flooding, while government emergency programs focus on broader flood response measures,” the release stated.
Last weekend, area residents, along with firefighters from Tulameen, Erris, Hayes Creek and Princeton held a sandbag barbecue and much was accomplished. Woodword thanked Jill Krop and all those who donated to the sandbagging machine and supplies, and also B.C. United Way, the RDOS and regional director Bob Coyne.
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