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FLOOD WATCH 2017: Should we be worried about the public infrastructure in the Central Okanagan?

Rotary Beach received major damage during a wind storm last night, May 24, 2017, but a spokesperson for the Emergency Operations Centre says city infrastructure is safe.
May 24, 2017 - 6:30 PM

KELOWNA – Okanagan Lake may be just five centimetres away from setting a new historic record, but it would have to climb two more metres before public infrastructure is affected.

The lake hasn’t been this full since 1948, when it reached 343 metres above sea level. Since then it has come close, according to Environment Canada, in 1951, 1972, 1990 and 1997. Central Okanagan Emergency Operations says the current level is just five centimetres away from a new record, and with the lake filling up at least twice as fast as dams can empty, the record will likely fall before the weekend.

Emergency Operations spokesperson Tom Wilson says cooler temperatures today, May 24, and last night have slowed the thaw of the snowpack, but much of the snow that melted over the unusually hot weekend is only now hitting the already swollen lake.

“There’s a 12 to 16 hour delay from up there to down here,” he says.

With the record sure to fall in the next day or two, Wilson says residents need to remember that engineers and city planners have included a 60 cm buffer zone into all public works.

An Emergency Operations worker clears debris from a boat launch on Cook Road, Wednesday, May 24, 2017.
An Emergency Operations worker clears debris from a boat launch on Cook Road, Wednesday, May 24, 2017.

Wilson says there is no indication the lake will ever reach near that high.

“It’s not like the lake’s going to suddenly overflow, it’s just heading toward the highest level ever recorded.”

While public property is governed by provincially set rules, many older residences are not.

There is no risk to the William Bennett Bridge, Wilson says, but Kelowna General Hospital, only a block from the water, is a different story.  

“The hospital is pretty well protected. Its’ really just the water table rising up underneath,” he says. “It’s not like we’re expecting to see water lapping at the walls.”

The Emergency Operations team will be focusing their attention on creeks and rivers in the coming days, making sure they are clear of debris and fortifications are holding up.

“That’s your one in 200 year flood,” Wilson says. 


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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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