Evacuation order issued in northern Okanagan as Whiteman's Creek overflows
Residents of several properties in B.C.'s North Okanagan were ordered to evacuate their homes as a nearby creek overflowed Tuesday.
Officials say they're concerned about the flood risk associated with Whiteman's Creek, close to where it empties into Okanagan Lake about 70 kilometres north of Kelowna, B.C.
According to the Okanagan Indian Band, which issued the evacuation order, residents on the south side of Falcon Avenue, adjacent to Whiteman's Creek, must leave their properties immediately. This includes people living at addresses 161 to 195 Falcon Avenue, as well as Nos. 54 and 55.
Officials have not said how many properties or people are estimated to be affected. The normally quiet creek began to overflow its banks after a sudden hot snap caused snow to melt and water levels to increase across the Okanagan.
Evacuees were asked to register at the Inkamapilux New Horizons Club in Vernon, B.C., located at 8 Bonneau Rd.
On Tuesday, dozens of residents of Parkers Cove — the small community west of Vernon where the evacuation order was issued — could be seen sandbagging around their homes as the swollen creek caused floodwaters to enter the town.
Steve Brandle, one of the residents whose home is on evacuation order, says he got the call to leave his home at around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday — having only moved to the community three months before.
"It was a little disconcerting, especially when you're half asleep," he told CBC News. "The [Okanagan Indian] band has been really good about everything. They gave us a few nights in a hotel. So, it could be a lot worse."
WATCH | Whiteman Creek rages as homeowners sandbag around their homes:
Brandle said that the community had started sandbagging efforts to protect properties as early as Sunday morning and thought that a barrier two sandbags high would be enough in the event the creek overflowed its banks.
"As you can see today [Tuesday], it's not fine," the homeowner said. "We're up to four and five high now, and we're having to back-support them so they don't blow through. So hopefully, it holds. We'll see."
The vast majority of the Okanagan region is currently under a flood watch due to a rapidly melting snowpack as temperatures climbed over the past week.
At 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Okanagan Indian Band said there had been no significant updates to the flood situation over the course of the day.
In an update posted to its emergency operations centre, the band said that flood mitigation measures — including tiger dams, gabions and sandbags — were being deployed to funnel floodwaters away from homes.
Phyllis Ebert, a resident of the community whose home is on evacuation alert, said it was the first time the community had seen significant flooding.
"We had the fires in Merritt and the flood came after we left. That was really terrible," she said. "When the Coquihalla got wiped out and stuff like that, we couldn't go anywhere. We were just locked in here.
"But this was a big surprise. Last year it flooded a bit, but never this high, never this loud."
Evacuation alerts in other parts of Interior
Evacuation orders and alerts have been issued in the past few days for other parts of the province's Interior, as flooding hits various areas.
The Lower Thompson region — including Cache Creek, west of Kamloops, where an evacuation order was issued Sunday — is under a flood warning.
A flood watch means river levels are rising and flooding might occur, while a warning means that river levels will exceed their banks imminently and flooding is expected.
Armel Castellan, Environment Canada warning and preparedness meteorologist, told CBC that while temperatures are expected to cool in the province, there will also be rain later this week.