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Emergency declared in Dawson Creek after unprecedented rain creates flood damage

A local state of emergency has been declared in Dawson Creek, in northeastern B.C., as receding flood waters reveal the extent of damage from two days of record-setting rain.
Image Credit: Craig Hartel @NuclearMoose via Twitter
June 17, 2016 - 9:00 PM

DAWSON CREEK, B.C. - A local state of emergency has been declared in Dawson Creek, in northeastern B.C., as receding flood waters reveal the extent of damage from two days of record-setting rain.

Mayor Dale Bumstead said Friday the declaration that will remain for up to seven days gives the community access to federal and provincial assistance as it recovers from flooding that forced evacuations, destroyed or damaged bridges and washed away the CN rail line.

Environment Canada meteorologist Lisa Coldwells said 89.8 millimetres of rain fell in Dawson Creek on Wednesday.

"Records in the Dawson Creek area go back to 1926 so this was an unprecedented rainfall for daily amount," she said Friday, when residents welcomed blue skies.

On Wednesday and Thursday, a total of 105 mm of rain pounded Dawson Creek, but Chetwynd, about 100 kilometres west of there, was hit by 130 mm rain during that time, Coldwells said.

A local state of emergency was declared in Chetwynd on Wednesday.

Trish Morgan, spokeswoman for the Peace River Regional District, said two helicopters were deployed Thursday to assess damage in rural areas where roads and bridges had washed out or were damaged.

"Our estimate right now is that there are approximately 418 properties that are affected by flooding," she said, adding residents in 213 homes are stuck because roads are impassable.

Morgan said several creeks southeast of Dawson Creek have overflowed their banks and at least four bridges in the area are inaccessible.

Fuel and generators were flown out to residents in 20 homes in the Hasler Flats area, she said.

"When they took out those supplies they also brought back two adults and a baby who had been stranded on Highway 97 after Commotion Creek let go."

The 11-week-old baby girl, along with her mother and grandmother, stayed with local residents overnight Thursday, said Leo Sabulsky, fire chief and co-ordinator of the emergency program in Chetwynd.

"The baby had a nutritional issue and had to have goat's milk so we had goat's milk ready at the scene," he said, adding members of the emergency social services team helped the infant named Ramone and her family, from Quesnel and Peace River, Alta.

Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness Naomi Yamamoto said some of the flooding resulted from recent forest fires that left the ground unable to absorb as much water.

"They are linked in some way. It's so ironic, the flooding and all this water coming down now and just a few weeks ago we had forest fires in the same area."

Yamamoto said the province began accepting applications Friday from residents, businesses and non-profit groups seeking disaster financial assistance.

She said BC Hydro crews have worked around the clock to try and restore power in Dawson Creek, Chetwynd and Fort St. John, though the utility's website says a pocket of homes remained in the dark.

— By Camille Bains in Vancouver

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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