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Crews unable to assess rock slide near Keremeos, B.C. due to fog

Click to play video: 'Rockslide triggers evacuation order and highway closure'
Rockslide triggers evacuation order and highway closure
WATCH: A rockslide just west of Keremeos triggered a local state of emergency overnight and forced the closure of a portion of Highway 3. As Taya Fast reports – crews are unable to fully assess the rockslide due to poor weather and there is no timeline as to when the highway will reopen. – Nov 6, 2023

A rock slide triggered a local state of emergency near Keremeos, B.C., and forced the closure of a portion of Highway 3 Sunday night.

The highway remains closed between Hedley-Nickleplate and Ashnola roads, just west of Keremeos.

“Scattered rock debris is spread out over a 400-metre section of the road,” said the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (Moti) in a statement.

Click to play video: 'Residents return home after Keremeos rockslide'
Residents return home after Keremeos rockslide

There is no timeline as to when the highway is expected to reopen as crews were unable to complete a geotechnical assessment of the area on Monday, due to fog.

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The ministry says a helicopter is scheduled to fly on Tuesday to assess the damage. Until they’ve done an assessment, the portion of Highway 3 affected will remain closed.

“The big concern is being able to access the place where the source of the slide was. Unfortunately, they were only able to get within 200 meters of it and then low clouds. That means they weren’t able to see it for sure,” said RDOS Area G director Tim Roberts.

“They’re not able to get the crews in to do the maintenance either on the road and or for our power which that’s the other big concern is there’s a lot of homes now that are out of power,” said Roberts.

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Fortis BC, which provides electricity in the region, said earlier the “unstable ground conditions” caused a power outage affecting 114 customers.

Crews were on scene along the highway working on powerlines but it’s unknown when residents in the area will have power again.

“Of course, getting into winter, we have vulnerable people, and we of course have a lot of people now switching over to power instead of gas, or other means, whether it be wood, etc., now it is something that you have to be thinking about,” said Roberts.

Click to play video: 'Keremeos RV park sustains damage from rockslide'
Keremeos RV park sustains damage from rockslide

Highway 97 is a major artery within the Interior. Drivers are now forced to take lengthy detours to get to neighbouring communities.

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DriveBC has proposed a detour that involves a route through Merritt and West Kelowna, adding more than 300 kilometres to the journey.

“It’s a fairly significant impact because not only are you affecting commercial trucks going through,  we’re also dealing with emergency services. So, for instance, a hospital in Princeton now the ambulance will have to go all the way around to Highway 97C to get into Peachland to get over to Penticton or Kelowna,” said

“A lot of your transfers and other medical emergencies means that we can deal with you on the other side of the slide, we can take the Princeton Hospital. But then all of a sudden that that person needs the greater amount of care, they’re going to have to go the direction towards Kelowna on Highway 97C, or transfer into Penticton that way as well, so that adds significant time.”

Click to play video: 'Rockslide west of Keremeos closes Highway 3'
Rockslide west of Keremeos closes Highway 3

Moti is asking drivers to check DriveBC for the most up to date information. The next highway update is expected to be on Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. via DriceBC.

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Meanwhile, the regional district has imposed a state of local emergency for the rural area roughly halfway between the village of Keremeos and the community of Hedley.

As well as an evacuation order was issued for several properties around midnight.

“There are 25 properties involved, of which 19 of them are occupied with around 32 individuals,” said RDOS Emergency Operations Centre director Jim Zaffino.

The Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District confirmed Monday that windows on one property were damaged by the rocks.

Officials said that nobody was injured, no cars were impacted, and the damage was relatively contained.

Click to play video: 'Man walks from Kelowna to Penticton due to rock slide'
Man walks from Kelowna to Penticton due to rock slide

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