Update: May 20, 1:20 p.m.
It’s the picture of a perfect holiday weekend in Penticton.
People are strolling along the Okanagan Lake boardwalk, enjoying the warm sunshine on a Victoria Day afternoon, and beach businesses like Patio Burger are open and busy, but city officials continue to prepare for any potential danger from the high water in the lakes and especially the rivers.
The City of Penticton warns that large volumes of fast-moving water and the hazards of the bridge abutments, strong currents and undertows along the channel have created conditions that could result in severe injury or death for potential users.
“Please stay away from the channel or any other fast moving water. Banks along the waters edge may also be unstable,” said CAO Peter Weeber. “Rescue would be difficult and in most cases impossible.”
With a storm and high winds in the weather forecast, crews in Penticton are working overtime to fill sandbags and prepare low-lying areas from flooding and wave action.
“It’s a slowly developing situation that willlikely come to a head Tuesday afternoon,” said Peter Weeber, chief administrative officer, watching local firefighters and a forestry crew from Revelstoke fill sandbags.
Crews have been working for three days now filling sandbags back of the Dawson Street fire hall, with firefighters being helped out by the Flames junior lacrosse team, Search and Rescue and, today, the forestry crew. Monday (May 22), they got some extra help, when Emergency Management B.C. delivered a machine capable of filling up to 1,600 sandbags per hour.
So far, the city has almost 20,000 sandbags stockpiled. Weeber said crews will be out placing sandbags to protect areas at risk of wave damage. That will be supplemented by Tiger Dams, which Emergency Management has also supplied for the city.
“We have surveyors out working right now,” said Weeber on Monday morning adding the water level went up four centimetres overnight, and they’re expecting the worst problems, if any, to come on Tuesday.
Environment Canada says a ridge of high pressure over the Southern Interior will remain in place until Tuesday, leading to unseasonably warm weather and accelerating the snow melt.
That will be followed by a cool-down accompanied by strong winds Tuesday night and Wednesday as a cold front quickly moves across the province and sweeps southeastward across the central Interior during the day Tuesday, likely reaching the Southern Interior Tuesday night. There is also a risk of thunderstorms.
Strong winds combined with high water levels could result in increased wave action that may impact shorelines and lakeside roads. The saturated ground also increases the chances of downed trees in strong winds.
A local state of emergency and an evacuation alert remains in effect for the Twin Lakes area near Kaleden, where the threat of flooding in the vicinity of Horn and Nipit Lakes (Twin Lakes) has increased the potential danger to life, health and property for a number of properties.
South of Oliver, an evacuation order has been lifted, but an alert remains in effect for a number of properties in area. Additional precautionary evacuation alerts are in effect for properties along Testalinden Creek, south of Oliver and Twin Lakes, west of Kaleden.
An interactive map has been set up showing the areas within the RDOS under precautionary evacuation alerts due to flooding. No areas within the RDOS are presently under mandatory evacuation orders.
The RDOS is asking residents to watch local creeks for debris. If residents see a creek moving larger branches, trees or boulders they should contact the Provincial Emergency hotline at 1-800-663-3456. If there is an immediate risk to lives or property then residents should phone 911.