Spring conditions challenge Highway crews across the Okanagan - InfoNews

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Spring conditions challenge Highway crews across the Okanagan

A portion of Eagle Bay Road was completely washed out on April 27, 2017.
Image Credit: Columbia Shuswap Regional District
May 31, 2017 - 4:43 PM

From mudslides to washouts to sinkholes, Ministry of Transportation crews have been kept hopping lately.

Over the past three weeks, the ministry has responded to more than 80 incidents in the Okanagan-Shuswap highway region.

District manager Jack Bennetto says heavier rains and significant spring runoff have made this a particularly challenging year. 

A sinkhole on Highway 97 in Vernon, Wednesday, May 31, 2017.
A sinkhole on Highway 97 in Vernon, Wednesday, May 31, 2017.
Image Credit: TWITTER/B.C. Transportation

“We’ve certainly had other years with really high water and lots of damage, but maybe not the same variety or the longevity of the challenges,” he says.

At the outset of the season, most of the challenges had to do with mud and land slides, but lately the complications have been more to do with flooding, Bennetto says.

“We’ve had some settlements on edges of roads, we’ve lost parts of roads. Some (impacts) are small, others are quite large,” he says. “We’ve seen slides in places where creeks never existed before.”

Highway crews are bracing for more problems in the coming days. 

“It appears the flooding is going to go on for a while,” Bennetto says. “We’re doing a whole bunch of work to reinforce the roads where we think we have an exposure.”

It’s difficult to predict where a road might give out, as drivers learned in Vernon this week when a sinkhole opened up in the middle of the highway. The scary part for road users is there are typically no visual warning signs to suggest a road might be about to give out, Bennetto says.

For example, the culvert that failed in Vernon was likely weakening for days, or possibly weeks, before it suddenly collapsed.

Drivers are encouraged to report any road damages here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 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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