To say last week was a wet one around Sicamous is an understatement.
With the melting snowpack and the pounding rains, normally quiet creeks became torrents rushing towards the Eagle River, which overflowed its banks in numerous spots along its winding path to Shuswap Lake.
Residents along Cambie Solsqua Road received the worst of it. Wednesday afternoon, what’s known as Ylisto Creek rose, while the culvert going under the road became plugged. The end result was a massive washout that closed that end of the road for a few days.
“I came home here at one o’clock yesterday (June 6), and I said to the guy that was giving me a ride home, I said, ‘well, I bet you this creek will be going over the road.’ By four o’clock it was going over the road,” said Whit Lee, while standing on a bank of riprap piled high to contain the creek.
Lee said it wasn’t the first time the creek has overflown its banks at that spot.
“The whole mountainside came down and covered the road, right, and this creek here covered this…,” said Lee, pointing to the roughly 100 feet of flooded road in front of him.
As Ylisto was flowing over the road, nearby Sims Creek was also becoming a concern for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District’s Shuswap Emergency Program (SEP). The creek was flowing high, with heavy mud and log debris beginning to collect, threatening to cause the creek to overflow its bank. In response, the CSRD, through SEP, issued an evacuation alert Wednesday evening to residents of Sundance Road, and residents along a section of Cambie Solsqua Road.
Late Thursday afternoon, Sundance Road resident Vicki Krahn was down on Cambie Solsqua to pick her child up from the school bus. Krahn said an RCMP officer came around at 10:30 the night before with the alert as she and her family were getting ready for bed. She said they were prepared to leave, if they had to, but appeared to be taking it all in stride.
“I don’t know if anybody has left… Nobody seems to be in a panic,” said Krahn, adding the creek had overflowed its bank the year before they bought their home.
“It would have been ’97 or ’98… Sims Creek at both sides washed out. So I’m thinking that’s what their concern is, that we will be washed out,” said Krahn.
Further west down Cambie Solsqua, Stan Heitman was flooded with concerns of his own. Much of the property around his house was underwater. While his home was safe, his work shed and all its contents, including two snowmobiles and lawn equipment, was half submerged. And, over by the train tracks was a small island where his animals, sheep and alpacas, stood in need of rescue.
“I have six sheep and two alpacas, and I’ve got to do something but it’s a gamble with the trains, because if you start herding them off the tracks and a train comes…,” said Heitman.
While it’s not uncommon for the stream running through Heitman’s property to flood, he says the problem is exacerbated by a culvert under the railway tracks that is preventing the water from reaching the river.
“I was down checking the culvert two-and-a-half days ago and it was fine,” says Heitman. “When it started raining, it came up so fast, it just can’t get through the culvert fast enough, so it just accumulates. It’s done it three times this year but never this high. It was the rain. The rain just put it over the top.”
Heitman credits CP Rail for responding to his calls and wanting to remedy the problem. However, there is a hold-up with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans who, according to Heitman, have said that nothing can be done about the culvert until August.
With the culvert addressed, Heitman expects his property would still flood a bit, but nowhere near what he was seeing Thursday.
Meanwhile, he says his neighbours have been offering their support, and a place to keep the animals once he was able to get them off their island.
“It’s going to be a slow fix if it doesn’t quit raining,” said Heitman.
The good news is that the Eagle River is leveling off, according to SEP co-ordinator Cliff Doherty. And, with works completed at Sims Creek, SEP has been able to withdraw the evacuation alert.
“We removed the evacuation alert in the Sims Creek Sundance Road area near Sicamous at 1:25 p.m. June 11,” he said. “All the work MOTI (Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure) was doing, armouring along the banks of the creek, was to be complete by 4 p.m.”
SEP’s attention is now going to other areas of concern, including Shuswap Lake.
Doherty said the electronic gauge at Canoe recorded the level at 348.25 metres Monday afternoon.
The Water Stewardship Division of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations told Doherty Monday morning they continue to believe the lake will crest at a one in five year flood level, probably in the third week of June.
“That description is 348.7 metres and similar to where the lake got to last year,” says Doherty. “It’s normal.”
That doesn’t mean all area residents are out of the woods yet.
“The biggest concern we have right now is beach dwellers – maybe not so much from water levels, but from waves caused by wind or boating activity,” he says.
Over at the City of Salmon Arm’s Public Works Department, manager John Rosenberg says he’s hopeful freshet will continue without incident. But in the spirit of hope for the best and prepare for the worst, Rosenberg says the city has put its action plan into effect.
He notes waves can change the water elevation by two feet or .6 metres – something beach residents should keep in mind over the next few weeks.
“We’re doing our due diligence – our action plan is in place and we’ll deal with whatever comes along.”
Rosenberg and Doherty both agree what comes along will be dependent on the weather mother nature serves up in the near future.
Both men also agree that concerned waterfront residents should get some sand bags and get busy protecting their property.