Okanagan Lake’s water level is just 35 centimeters away from its flood mark, causing concerns among officials that it may overflow or cause tributary creeks to back up and burst their banks.
The city is urging citizens not to remove existing sandbags or to clear debris, because these prevent wave-related erosion on the shore of the lake. If there is too much rain or if temperatures soar, properties near the water could be in trouble.
“There’s a couple of concerns, number one that the lake reaches the same level as some of the creeks entering it so it creates a backflow of water up those creeks and of course into the surrounding area,” said Tom Wilson, an information officer with the Emergency Operations Centre in Kelowna.
Mill and Mission Creek would be affected if backflow occurs, potentially spilling over. The water level is now so precarious that boaters are being asked to keep their speeds down near the shore.
“With any kind of wave action, it’s causing erosion to the beaches and any properties that are right up against the water,” Wilson said. “People with docks are of course concerned about the effect.”
343 meters is the flood mark, and with the lake rising four centimeters overnight Sunday, officials are warning people not to let their guard down.
“The concern is that people protect their properties and continue to keep their sandbags in place,” Wilson said. “We’re talking until mid-June, late June before it might even be safe to remove those.”
The city is also dealing with a high water table in the ground in the downtown area, which could cause more flooding.
Two heavy duty water pumps have been working almost around the clock since Friday to bring down those levels. The pumps were rented from the Lower Mainland, and they will continue to be used in Kelowna until the situation stabilizes.