Residents out past kilometre 8 on Old Hedley Road were in for a surprise this morning. Colleen Stevens went past the area at around 5:30 a.m. on her way into town and noticed that ice was pushed up higher than the edges of the roadway in spots along the Similkameen River. This was the beginning of a much uglier scenario that continued to worsen as the morning progressed.
By the time Dana Stevens was coming home three hours later, the road was impassable for traffic. Some of the huge ice chunks his wife Colleen had noticed earlier pressing up along the roadside were now covering a portion of the road. Many of the chunks were the size of a human or bigger. An ice jam was causing the river to overflow onto the roadway making the Old Hedley Road virtually impassable for all, but the bravest. Three pick-up trucks nosed their way through after one lane of ice was cleared away. Then, moments later a small SUV took the chance.
The SUV bounced around and was almost washed into the ditch as it struggled its way through. A house midway out into a growing lake was now surrounded by water. The driver was holding the steering wheel tight and kept it on the asphalt. More and more of the river seeped into the farmer’s field. The water got deeper before it got better, but the little SUV braved the mighty river and made it out the other side.
A sign was put up to stop traffic from continuing to gamble with the river. Residents were forced to take the long way to town emerging near Sterling Creek Ranch and travelling by Hwy #3. By late afternoon, the water along the roadway had decreased, but large chunks of ice still sat up higher than the highway. In spots, the river seemed to be at a standstill, while in others small streams of water ran over the ice and escaped. The road will continue to remain closed until some of the ice jam breaks up or is broken up by something.
The last time a flooding situation occurred at the same location was in 1985. Jim Turner who is part of the emergency response team for the area said, “the flood is out of our hands. We will have to see what the powers that be decide.” An assessment team was sent out to evaluate the situation and will be closely monitoring the progress of the ice jam and flooding.