FLOOD WATCH 2017: Penticton emergency and work crews continue to fight rising waters

Penticton fire and forestry crews work to keep debris from jamming underneath a pedestrian bridge on Penticton Creek today, May 24, 2017.

PENTICTON - The busy days and anxious nights will continue for Penticton emergency personnel and public works staff as the water continues to rise in Okanagan Lake.

City firefighters and unit crew from Wildfire Management were working to prevent flooding creek waters from taking out the pedestrian bridge near the art centre this afternoon, May 24.

Swiftwater trained firefighters pried bridge decking off the bridge crossing Penticton Creek in an effort to dislodge debris hanging up underneath the bridge.

The fast moving waters of Penticton Creek are now touching the bottom of the decking.

“We’re trying to mitigate debris coming down Penticton Creek this afternoon,” fire chief Larry Watkinson says. He worries that the water is rising to the point where a large piece of debris could jam under the bridge and dam up the creek.

Watkinson says nothing can be ruled out, including losing the bridge, as waters continue to flow at high levels and high speeds.

The Kiwanis Walking Pier near the Lakeside Resort has been closed due to damage suffered in last night's windstorm.
The Kiwanis Walking Pier near the Lakeside Resort has been closed due to damage suffered in last night's windstorm.

A larger perimeter will be created around the bridge to prevent citizens from getting too close should the bridge suddenly fail, he says.

Watkinson also urges caution around swift water.

“Be smart, be safe, stay away from swift moving water because although it may look slow moving there’s currents and undertow and there’s debris in there,” he says, pointing to the fast flowing Penticton Creek.

“If you get in there, you’re likely gone."

Watkinson says other crews were out reinforcing and rearmouring sandbags this afternoon.

“Last night’s storm really beat them up, however they withstood the brunt of the storm, which is really good news for us,” he says.

Sandbagging worked really well for the most part, but crews found some new gaps that are now being filled.

The Kiwanis Walking Pier was one of the worst hit structures on the Okanagan Lake shoreline. The pier, along with a section of the walkway on either side, has been closed.

Watkinson says even though it had been built to engineered standards, the power of the wind and water was too much for it last night.

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