As Okanagan Lake reaches a 27-year high and flood mitigation efforts are clearly visible around the City of Penticton some tourists may have re-considered their May Long weekend travel plans.
“I received a tremendous amount of calls on whether or not Penticton was even open for business,” said Diana Stirling, owner of the Loco Landing Adventure Park near Okanagan Lake.
Stirling said she took a hit to her bottom line on Friday and Saturday.
“We had a 25-35% drop on both days,” although she said she enjoyed record May Long numbers the rest of the weekend after a public bulletin went out advising Penticton was open for business.
Travel Penticton said the Visitor’s Centre also fielded calls about possible road closures, although the unusually cool spring has posed a bigger threat to the hospitality industry.
“We did see alittle bit of a slow down with people being cautious wondering about the high water,” said Executive Director Thom Tischik.
“So far the season has been affected not so much by the high water in the lakes but by the cold and rainy spring that we’ve had, and that has been enough, we’ve had enough,” he added.
Meanwhile, 20,000 sandbags have been deployed around Penticton and portable dams were installed near the lakeshore.
A 300-metre tiger dam has been installed from the SS Sicamous to the Okanagan Lake dam; essentially a giant tube filled with water supported by sandbags.
“Tomorrow there is going to be some rain and heavy winds so we’re just protecting our city assets,” said Penticton mayor Andrew Jakubeit.
“We haven’t seen the water this high in Penticton for a long time and the SS Sicamous behind me is actually floating so that brought a lot of curiosity out from people, it was still busy, we’re certainly open for business,” he said.
There’s barely any beach left on Okanagan Lake in Penticton, although Skaha Lake beach is unaffected.
Floaters are being asked to stay away from the channel due to strong currents and undertows while boaters are asked to stay off of the lake.
“We try to encourage people to stay off the water right now because the wave action does cause some issues for people,” Jakubeit said.
Even the historic SS Sicamous was closed today for the ironic reason that it’s floating 20 centimetres off the ground.
Scheduled weekend weddings are going ahead, albeit with a change of plans.
“They were going to have the ceremonies on the beach but the beach is covered by water at the moment so we’re having them on the bow instead,” said Assistant Manager Jessie Dunlop.