GRAND FORKS, B.C. – As efforts begin to shift from response to recovery in some British Columbia communities already gutted by flooding, hundreds of people in other areas of the province are ready to evacuate their homes at a moment’s notice.
Officials says the second catastrophic surge of flooding they anticipated for Friday and Saturday in the Boundary region, including the devastated community of Grand Forks, B.C., never came — thanks to lower temperatures and less rainfall than forecasted.
And while those areas are not in the clear yet — with 130 per cent more snowpack remaining at higher elevations than is typical for this time of year — officials are hopeful the worst is over.
“We are seeing those risk levels abetting and we’re working really hard to get everyone back in their homes,” said Chris Marsh, emergency operations centre co-ordinator for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary.
Many areas remain flooded, and evacuation orders are still in place for about 3,000 residents of the area.
About 20 rapid damage assessment teams are going door to door and using placards to mark those buildings with little or no damage. Assessments will continue through Sunday, Marsh said, with the hope that officials can begin rescinding evacuation orders “very quickly” where it’s appropriate.
But as officials prepare to switch gears from response to recovery, they are mindful of the massive job ahead of them.
“The built infrastructure piece, that’s the simplest part of recovery,” said Roly Russell, chairman of the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary.
He said the psychological and social recovery will be much more challenging.
“The shock, maybe, is starting to pass and now the long-term implications and the stress and the emotional burden is starting to show up on people and in families. And that’s going to be a big, big task to stickhandle through,” he said.
In other parts of the province, residents and emergency crews remain on high alert.
Hundreds of homes and businesses in the unprotected flood plain along British Columbia’s lower Fraser River could be asked to evacuate in the coming days, as rapid melt from snowpack continues to raise water levels.
Approximately 260 properties in the areas of Northwest Langley and Glen Valley, B.C., as well as Brae Island and McMillan Island, are on evacuation alert.
Township of Langley officials said door-to-door evacuation orders could be issued in areas unprotected by dikes if readings at the Mission gauge reach 6.3 metres.
By Saturday afternoon, water levels at the gauge were creeping toward 6.0 metres. The River Forecast Centre estimated they could reach 6.4 metres on Sunday and 6.57 metres on Monday.
Residents in the flood plain have been advised to have a plan in place, including arrangements to stay with family or friends and preparing emergency kits with clothing, medication and other necessities.
The River Forecast Centre said persistent warmer than normal temperatures across British Columbia for the past three weeks have led to a much earlier than normal runoff period for the Fraser River.
Okanagan Lake hit full pool today and is predicted to reach levels similar to last year in the coming weeks, Central Okanagan Emergency Operations said.
“Full pool” is the target set by the province to ensure adequate water supply through the summer.
Private property owners who experienced flooding last year are being encouraged to take measures to protect their properties by placing sandbags and removing items from basements and crawlspaces.
Boat launches throughout Okanagan Lake remain open, however boaters are cautioned that lake levels are high and they should watch for floating debris.