Two Lake Country residents almost caught in Pelmewash Parkway rock slide | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Two Lake Country residents almost caught in Pelmewash Parkway rock slide

Malcolm Hett's van was hit in a rockslide on Pelmewash Parkway in Lake Country, Feb. 3.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Malcolm Hett
February 04, 2021 - 4:06 PM

Only a day after Lake Country council discussed concerns about slope stability along Pelmewash Parkway, two Lake Country residents almost were caught in a rock slide on the road.

Malcolm Hett, from Lake Country, said he was driving southbound along the Pelmewash Parkway yesterday afternoon, Feb. 4, when he noticed a significant amount of rocks on the road so he decided to pull over and clear them off.

“I came across probably 10-plus wheelbarrow loads of debris, rocks and dirt that were spread across both lanes,” Hett said.

With the help of another resident, they had almost cleared the debris when a large rock fell from the hillside and hit his van.

READ MORE: Rockslide on Pelmewash Parkway in Lake Country

He let his dog out of the van and moved it to the other side of the road and continued clearing both lanes.

“Less than two minutes after I moved my vehicle across the road, was when the whole hillside let loose… We were directly on the road right where all the debris fell… We heard the big crack and looked up and saw the whole hillside shift and start to come down. We acted on instinct to move and we ran out of the way,” Hett said.

If they hadn’t moved in time, Hett said they could have been seriously injured. There was debris had fallen right where they were standing.

He was able to drive his van home, he said, but the slide sent more rocks into the side of the vehicle and underneath it.

“It would have been a write-off if I hadn’t moved it,” he said. 

Living along Pelmewash Parkway, he said it’s common to see rocks on the road a few times a year.

Councillor Todd McKenzie addressed council about slope stability concerns along the old section of highway, Feb. 2, a day before the incident.

“I have concerns about all the rocks coming down due to the freeze (and) thaw weather we have had recently. It has been a concern of mine that was discussed with our district engineer about possibly stepping up our inspections of the hillside,” McKenzie said.

“We have removed trees and debris from the hillside as well as cleaned out the ditches when required. I just added that we should be prepared to spend some money on keeping it safe for all those that use it. (The) last thing I want to see is someone injured as a result of something we may have been able to have prevented,” he said.

The district has been doing visual inspections regularly since it was originally brought up and was prepared to bring in a geotechnical engineer if they saw something of extra concern. That engineer has since been called in, he said.

Mayor James Baker said prior to the old highway ownership transfer from the province in 2017 to the district, council had asked the province to knock out some of the looser material before ownership of the road was transferred.

“We fought long and hard with the provincial government to do a scaling before we took it over, but they said there were so many areas that needed scaling (that had more traffic),” he said. “It’s something that’s always been on our mind and if you travel it."

He said you’re always scanning the slopes to see if something might come loose.

Part of the reason the highway was moved was because of the rockfalls when it was the only route between Oyama and Winfield and how it would impede traffic, Baker said.

“We realize it’s something that occurs in the spring freeze and thaw,” he said.

Debris removal is ongoing on Pelmewash Parkway and the slope's stability was assessed by a geotechnical engineer on-site late Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, said Karen Miller, communications officer for the district, via email.

A rock catchment berm is being built along the section of Pelmewash Parkway where the slide occurred in order to provide further protection, she said.

The district is hoping to have the road reopened by 6 p.m. today.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 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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