KELOWNA - Residents dealing with homes damaged by flooding in Kelowna have walled off their properties with six to seven layers of sandbags in preparation for another threat of rising water.
Thunderstorms and heavy rain bypassed the Okanagan region Thursday night, but the Central Okanagan emergency operations centre said today, May 12, that melting snow means lake levels are full and unstable weather would maintain the flood risk.
Debby Helf, 72, said she and her neighbours were unprepared for last week's flood, which quickly filled basements, wrecking furnaces, hot water tanks and appliances.
Now, with more sand and sandbags from the city, homeowners whose properties back onto a full Mill Creek are ready for conditions predicted to be worse than the first time around.
"Everybody has really sandbagged like crazy. Luckily, last night we were OK," Helf said, adding residents stressed from their last experience are on edge.
"When we went to get the sand two blocks away where (the city) had a depot with sand and sandbags there would be either sand with no sandbags or sandbags with no sand.
"We were going, 'We need sandbags, help, help!' on Facebook to all our friends. We weren't even able to start sandbagging until it was too late."
"So many people lined up that it was kind of like 'Lord of the Flies,' " she said. "My brain short circuited. When somebody helped me I burst into tears, I was so grateful. You're on the edge emotionally."
This time, Helf and her neighbours got a truckload of sand, which was donated by a local company, and paid for the trucking cost themselves.
She said the drainage system in her older neighbourhood wasn't able to handle the rising water level last week so she and several residents complained to the city on Wednesday.
"As the water started to rise on our street and form a 100-foot wide pool and rising, at 12:30 last night a tanker truck roared in and made two trips draining our street," she said.
In Merritt, about 130 kilometres west of Kelowna, overnight showers caused substantial flooding.
Mayor Neil Menard said the Nicola River breached its bank and caused heavy flooding along two streets.
"It's pretty serious," Menard said Friday. "We've been supplying sand and bags at our civic centre. It's been going steady and is pretty hard to keep up with things. What can I say, it's a disaster."
Menard said city and fire crews are doing their best to keep the area as safe as possible, with residents also sandbagging throughout Friday morning.
The melting snowpack and recent rain caused flooding, washouts and mudslides in many areas of the south and central Interior, forcing evacuations and evacuation alerts.
Officials in the Central Okanagan Regional District said those orders and alerts remain up in their area. The district also published lake-level flood watch maps for waterfront areas of Kelowna, West Kelowna and the Westbank First Nation.
The maps show the possibility of flooding over the next week or weeks as swollen rivers empty into Okanagan Lake and other nearby lakes that are already full, the district said.
The River Forecast Centre posted flood watches on waterways from the Boundary region all the way north to the central Interior, Thompson and Shuswap.
Flood watches have also been posted for the Bulkley River in northwestern B.C., and for waterways through the northeastern corner of the province.
Storms packing as much as 60 millimetres of rain are expected over the northwest while Environment Canada said 90 millimetres of rain is forecast in the Peace and Fort Nelson regions, followed by as much as 15 millimetres on Saturday.
Find past stories on the spring flooding here.