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'Suffering the impact of the highest waters ever seen' — RDKB EOC

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
May 12th, 2018

The devastation of homes and businesses by flooding across the Boundary region continued Friday as people work tirelessly to save what they can. In what has been categorized as a catastrophic event by the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) Emergency Operations Centre, the entire area is suffering the impact of the highest waters ever seen.

“The impacts… run the entire Kettle River system including West Kettle River, Kettle River, Granby River and creeks feeding into them,” said operations chief David Reed, “The [impacts] will last years and years and cost millions of dollars.”

The flood waters peaked in the early hours of Friday, May 11 at a level 60 centimeters higher than the record flood in the region in 1948 while the speed of the Granby River was over 520 cubic metres per second. More than 2700 residents and 1395 properties are under evacuation orders between Christina Lake in the east through Beaverdell in the west.

“Overnight there was a dyke failure in Ruckle (area of Grand Forks),” said emergency operations centre (EOC) director Chris Marsh. “The breach impacted a substation and knocked out power to downtown Grand Forks.”

Marsh said the EOC remains at level 3 activation with waters still on the rise.

In the past day, there have been 30 active rescues by Search and Rescue teams from the Kootenays, Boundary and Okanagan in collaboration with the local fire department’s swift water rescue teams including swimmers. Five helicopters are [assessing damage as well as assisting in rescues.

The teams are going door to door to ensure all residents are evacuated. The majority of the rescues have been of people who were unaware of the evacuation notice or chose to stay.

“Doing rescues is distracting to our focus and we would like to move into a different [phase of support],” said Reed. The EOC encourages everyone to stay out of evacuation zones after reports of people canoeing through the town. “We don’t want any more rescue events,” he continued. “Don’t take boats out on the water – Christina Lake is so high boats are causing damage to properties.”

So far there has not been any reports of related injuries to people in the communities. The EOC is providing emergency social services to give immediate relief for flood victims – food, water and family reunification for evacuated residents are key. Highway three remains open, but the flood levels on the road is making it negligible for smaller vehicles. The Granby River Road is closed near the town, and many city roads are fully under water.

A key message for residents in Grand Forks is that there are no problems with the drinking water at this time. “There is a lot of talk that the water in Grand Forks is not drinkable, this is false.”

Added Reid. “We are testing it on a regular basis and it is fine to drink at this time for residents within city limits.” Reid also added that they are working to restore the power and ask for patience as crews do line checks to ensure no one is in danger.

Kettle River Watershed Authority coordinator Jessica Mace explained that the community, especially those not affected by the flooding, has been overwhelmingly supportive. “Because we are thinking there may be another peak we are stockpiling sand bags at airport in Grand Forks or the arena if you are interested in helping,” said Mace. “Over 1000 volunteers have been helping coming with trucks, making food, filling sandbags ~ really amazing efforts.”

Other locations are also sandbagging across the region and the sites can be found on the RDKB website.

As for next steps, the EOC is hoping for a reprieve as the river flows ease off, but are predicting a secondary wave of flooding. “This event was primarily driven by significant rainfall,” explained Marsh. “We still have significant snowpack and expect significant temperatures. We may have reprieve from this event, but there may be more peaks.”

The EOC will be focusing at this time on rescue, then their second focus will be a triage process and planning for the potential secondary events. Their third will be looking after the community for evacuation support and assessing damages. “We are looking at de-watering the downtown area but today it is premature,” Marsh commented.

RDKB area D representative Roly Russell commended the EOC team. “The public doesn’t have a deep understanding of the complexity of the coordination of the number of agencies,” said Russell. “It is a really remarkable accomplishment that the EOC is operating so effectively in light of this event.”

Updates to the situation can be found at the EOC weblink:

Affected residents, including those staying with family or friends, should register as soon as possible at the Emergency Social Services (ESS) Reception Centre at:

  • Grands Fork Curling Centre, 7230 21st Street, Grand Forks, BC.

The contact for the Emergency Operations Centre is 1-888-747-9119.

Mona Mattei is the former Owner/Editor of the Boundary Sentinel online news site.

Categories: General