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Rain pounds B.C.’s southeast, as Central Kootenay placed on ‘unprecedented’ flood evacuation alert

Flood watch: water levels rising in B.C. Interior and Kooteney Boundary
Flood watch: water levels rising in B.C. Interior and Kooteney Boundary

British Columbia’s Kootenays are being pounded by rain Sunday, as the Regional District of the Central Kootenay, with the exception of the cities of Castlegar and Nelson, remains under an evacuation alert due to potential flooding.

It is the latest part of the province to enact precautions amid growing concerns that spring floodwaters could meet or exceed those of the historic 2018 flood season that forced thousands from their homes and caused millions of dollars in damage.

On Sunday, Environment Canada placed most of B.C.’s south-east under a special weather statement as thunderstorms moved up from central Washington state.

Precipitation of between 10-35 millimetres is possible, and the agency warns it could contribute to rising rivers and flash flooding.

READ MORE: B.C. flooding 2018: Photos, videos of floods in communities around the province

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The evacuation alert, issued Saturday, came after the B.C. River Forecast Centre upgraded the Slocan and Salmo rivers, along with surrounding tributaries, to flood watch status.

The district says the “unprecedented” alert was due to an approaching storm system Saturday night, and significant spring meltwater.

Most communities are not currently being evacuated, but residents are being warned to be ready to leave on short notice.

There are, however, several exceptions.

Evacuation orders have been issued for the community of Crawford Creek, the Duhamel Creek Drainage, and Broadwater Road.

“Because this is a region-wide event, because it has hit us so hard and so fast, we are doing a number of tactical evacuations, which means we are evacuating people based on life safety,” said Chris Johnson, RDCK emergency operations manager.

“We definitely anticipate more orders today as the rain continues to fall in our region and the rivers continue to react.”

Late Sunday, evacuation orders were also added for Salmo/Ymir, 185 Chopaka Road and the Slocan River drainage region (south of the Village of Slocan), including some residents within the Village of Slocan, Lemon Creek, Perry’s, Appledale, Winlaw, Lebahdo, Vallican, Passmore, Slocan Park, Crescent Valley, and Shoreacres.

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Johnson told Global News officials are watching smaller watersheds that are reacting quickly to rain, along with major waterways such as the Slocan and Salmo rivers which are expected to take several days to peak.

READ MORE: B.C.’s Southern Interior prepares for possible weekend flooding

Flood watches were issued elsewhere in B.C. Sunday, including the Similkameen River and Nicola rivers.

The Regional District of the Central Kootenay (RDCK) says its alert is specific to properties adjacent to rivers, creeks and streams.

“We are issuing this evacuation alert as a precaution due to the significant amount of uncertainly pertaining to rainfall amounts and the potential for extreme isolated storm events,” said Chris Johnson, the RDCK Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) director in a bulletin to residents.

“We are advising everyone that lives near a river, creek or stream to be prepared to evacuate if required on short notice. This situation can change quickly, depending on the weather over the next 12-48 hours.”

New website helps Okanagan residents with flood preparations
New website helps Okanagan residents with flood preparations

Central Kootenay Residents can get up to date information on the situation here.

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Saturday’s upgrading of the Slocan and Salmo rivers and surrounding tributaries to flood watch status came a day after an estimated 2,300 people in the Boundary region were also placed on evacuation alert.

READ MORE: Evacuation alert issued for residents in B.C.’s Boundary regions as flood risk rises

In that region, the Kettle River, West Kettle River, Granby River and tributaries all remain on flood watch due to the possibility of a one-in-200 year flood event.

Regional districts in the Okanagan have also warned residents that a number of area lakes are now at full pool, while creeks and waterways are at high water levels and rising.

Regional districts also say those living near creeks, streams and low-lying properties that have experienced flooding and high water in the past are responsible for having an emergency plan, as well as the tools and equipment to protect properties from possible damage.

–With files from Doyle Potenteau and Doris Marie Bregolisse