Armed forces deployed to Vernon to assist with southern Interior flooding efforts

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK

VERNON - Approximately 140 military personnel arrived in Vernon late this afternoon to help communities in the southern Interior hammered by flooding.

Chris Duffy with Emergency Management B.C. said Vernon will be the staging area for personnel from the 3rd Canadian Division based in Edmonton while local officials determine the best places to deploy them.

Affected regions will participate in coordination calls every day so they can assess where to send the troops, Duffy said during a telephone news conference today, May 17.

"It's still a very dynamic discussion that needs to be discussed," Duffy said.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the B.C. government asked for help and is happy to have the troops.

"They will be deployed to the areas of greatest need. Obviously the southern Interior, Grand Forks for example, is a key community. Their job will be to assist in the local efforts, in terms of such things as protecting important infrastructure, assisting in evacuations, sandbags, things of that nature."

Head of the B.C. River Forecast Centre, David Campbell, called the river flows across the province "unprecedented" for this time of year.

"We've been experiencing prolonged period of extreme heat across the province, and this has really been leading to significant snow melt and significant flood risk," Campbell said.

He added the short term forecast for the southern Interior includes rain and ongoing hot weather that will have an impact on how the flooding situation plays out next week.

"This will really push the risks of extreme flooding through the Similkameen, the Okanagan, the Shuswap, the Boundary," Campbell said.

Long weekend flows are expected to be very high in all rivers in the province and the public is urged to exercise extreme caution near any waterways. Banks can be unstable, water can be swift, which poses a "significant" public safety issue. The public is also urged to avoid driving through flooded roadways.

There are currently 36 states of local emergency in the province, 4,500 people on evacuation order, and 7,100 people on evacuation alert.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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