Kamloops preparing for 'one-in-20 year' flood event this spring - InfoNews

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Kamloops preparing for 'one-in-20 year' flood event this spring

The rising Thompson River in Kamloops at McArthur Island Park is pictured in this file photo from June 2, 2017. City officials are getting ready for flooding this spring thanks to a high snowpack.
April 15, 2020 - 2:17 PM

The City of Kamloops is preparing for what could be an intense year of flooding, and the COVID-19 pandemic may complicate things.

“The modelling predicts that we may see a one-in-20-year flood event this year,” Greg Wightman, the City’s utility services manager said in a media release. “However, the City has an extensive plan and is working to prioritize actions.”

He said the danger of flooding is based on modelling by the B.C. River Forecast Centre. High snowpacks this year could mean flooding in some key city areas. During a presentation to Kamloops city council today, April 15, Wightman said they are seeing the third highest snowpack in recorded history in the Kamloops area.

“Our entire focus right now is to prevent any flooding,” Wightman said. “We want to make sure we have all the prevention measures in place that we can to prevent widespread flooding that has impacts on our critical infrastructure, those are the key things we’re trying to protect.”

Residents might not be able to stroll along the Riverside Park path or pier, or walk along Pioneer Park. The lamp posts from the Riverside Park pier to the Sandman Centre may also be shut off, and the catch basins in that area could be sandbagged to prevent water from overflowing onto the roadways.

Residents in low-lying areas are encouraged to protect their homes. The City has 250,000 sandbags available for residents, which can be picked up at the Barnhartvale Community Centre, the B.C. Wildlife Park and several fire stations. Wightman said more can be accessed if needed through Emergency Management B.C.

Due to COVID-19 concerns, residents needing sandbags are encouraged to bring their own shovels and respect social distancing orders. Wightman said families and household units should work together while maintaining social distancing from other individuals outside of their home, as it is a difficult job to do with one person.

Wightman said that small creeks could be immediately impacted by a day of rainfall.

In addition to structure and ground damage, the flooding creates a danger for people working or recreating near waterways and culverts. The flooding may cause erosion beneath the surface of the banks and cause someone to slip in.

If the floods do hit, maintenance and clean up will also be trickier than usual because of COVID-19 related social distancing measures.

“As far as the impact of (COVID-19) we’re addressing a lot of things like not being able to have too many people in one vehicle,” Wightman said. “When we do our weekly and eventually daily dike inspections, how do we do that now when we are going to need not one but two vehicles?”

Wightman said the City is continuing to look into how to best handle the flood season while keeping the community safe from the virus. He said they are working with Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and will provide necessary resources to the band, although they are might not be as hard hit as some of the flood mappings show.

Wightman says this flood mapping is not quite what residents should expect.
Wightman says this flood mapping is not quite what residents should expect.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / City of Kamloops

“That flood tool takes a lot of interpretation. Just because an area is blue doesn’t mean there is going to be flooding there, there could be a dike there,” Wightman said. “We don’t do flood modelling for the (Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc), that is their own responsibility.”

Wightman expects the smaller creeks, such as the previously affected Heffley Creek, to likely rise in the first week of May, and said the Thompson Rivers would likely be most impacted in the first week of June. He urged residents to start preparing for the flood season now, as it could be a tough year, and preparations could take longer because of social distancing requirements.

For more information about about sandbag locations and how to make sandbags and sandbag dikes go here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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