June 19, 2017 8:57 pm

Sandbags removed from some central Okanagan neighborhoods

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Despite sandbag removal work in some neighborhoods, Okanagan residents are still being urged to keep their flood protective measures in place.

“It’s definitely not open season on sandbag removal,” Jason Luciw with the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre said.

Wildfire crews with the B.C. Forest Service spent Monday removing thousands of sandbags from private properties on Burne Avenue in Kelowna where last month a raging Mill Creek burst its banks and spilled into the neighborhood flooding numerous homes.

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“What you are seeing is creekside sandbags being removed strategically by our crews so they can be re-deployed where they are needed,” Luciw said.

The sandbags are being loaded onto pallets and onto a flat-bed truck. They are then taken to a location to be re-deployed where needed, mostly along the lakeshore.

“We still have people who are calling Into the emergency operations centre saying that they’re seeing some effects form lake level flooding, they’re seeing effects from wind,” Luciw said. “Maybe the sandbags that are in place are starting to deteriorate, maybe they have been damaged by the weather, the waves.”

Emergency officials want to be clear that just because sandbags are being removed in some places, flood protection measures should be left in place, especially if you live along the lake. They are concerned that residents may get the wrong message when they see sandbags being removed in some neighborhoods.

“Yeah, particularly on a day like today when you see B.C. wildfire crews removing sandbags form Burne Avenue or seeing sandbags being removed from downtown Kelowna, potentially today, people start to think, wow are we good?” Luciw said. “No, we are not good. We are still 70 centimetres above where we should be so as far as the lake, the lakeshore is concerned, we are not anywhere near where we need to be for the threat level to have subsided.”

There are an estimated two million sandbags scattered throughout the central Okanagan. The Emergency Operations Centre is finalizing its recovery strategy and plans to update residents in the near future.

“We are talking about things like setting up a sandbag hotline, we are talking about exactly what that response looks like, how we are going to help residents get rid of the sandbags,” Luciw said.

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