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Heavy rain triggers flash flood in wildfire-hit Monte Lake

Click to play video: 'Heavy rain triggers post-wildfire debris flows in Monte Lake' Heavy rain triggers post-wildfire debris flows in Monte Lake
WATCH: Residents in the Monte Lake area were still cleaning up on Wednesday after heavy rain triggered debris flows on Tuesday. The flash flooding comes after the massive White Rock Lake Wildfire swept through the community last year leaving the area more vulnerable to landslides. – Jun 29, 2022

Residents in the Monte Lake area were cleaning up Wednesday after heavy rain triggered debris flows on Tuesday.

The flash flooding comes after the massive White Rock Lake Wildfire swept through the community last year, leaving the area more vulnerable to landslides.

Wally Green, who owns Heritage Campsite in Monte Lake, captured a video of the torrent of muddy water rushing downslope through his campground on Tuesday.

Read more: Water pooling on Highway 97 near Monte Lake, B.C.

“It was flowing probably about 10 inches deep down the whole hillside. It was pretty torrential rain. I haven’t seen it rain that hard ever,” said Green.

Green’s campground is upslope from Highway 97 and the water and debris ended up flooding the highway.

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“It was pretty much mud all the way to the center line,” said Green.

Read more: B.C. must shore up risk crisis communications before, during, after wildfires: report

Campground resident Jackie Cooke said she was loading her truck when it happened and suddenly “all hell broke loose” and she found herself standing in water as if she was walking through a creek.

She described seeing her neighbours’ property floating around.

“A couple of my cats got washed away. One is dead, one is still missing but I got one back,” Cooke said.

“It is something you don’t expect to go through.”

Read more: ‘There could have been more done’: Debate over B.C. wildfire response heats up after document leaked

The intensity of the forecasted downpour also surprised Kevin Skrepnek, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District’s emergency operations centre director.

“We were seeing some pretty extreme rain in the forecast, but there was almost a surgical strike on this on this particular stretch. [There was] 20 minutes of really, really intese rain and a lot of that came down as hail as well. I think that hail is partly why we had the issues out here, just in terms of clogging up the culverts and drainages,” Skrepnek said.
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Read more: Devastating images of B.C. wildfire animal survivors living among scorched earth

Tuesday’s flash flooding left those living in the campsites and the operator with a major clean-up job. They were using heavy equipment to clear out the mud and debris that had built up around the campground.

The mud flow was only the latest challenge Monte Lake residents have had to contend with. Residents of the area lived through a harrowing wildfire season last year.

When the White Rock Lake wildfire burnt through Monte Lake last summer, Jackie Cooke was among those who lost their home.

She now lives in a trailer in Heritage Campsite and is frustrated to be cleaning up from a post-wildfire debris flow.

“I can’t even say I am sad. I am mad because this shouldn’t have happened. If the fire wouldn’t have happened, if it had been stopped, this bullsh** wouldn’t have happened to anybody along this highway,” Cooke said.

Read more: More anger, frustration from inside devastated White Rock Lake fire zone

Monte Lake Resort, the campground next to Heritage Campsite, also experienced a torrent of water, mud and rocks.

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The owners say they were 90 per cent finished with their fire rebuild when this flooding hit.

“It is obviously very frustrating when you are two steps forward and one step back,” said Dennis Smith, Monte Lake Resort’s co-owner.

Read more: ‘We’re doing it all on our own’: Monte Lake residents feel abandoned over White Rock Lake fire

Smith said the area needs more help, including an assessment of the future risk.

“We are just looking for some support and for some professionals to come in and see what kind of damage has been done up there [on the burnt hillside] and what we are up against,” Smith said.

A general report, completed last fall, said the Monte Lake area was at high risk for landslides after the fire, so the regional district is not ruling out the possibility of another event similar to what happened on Tuesday.

“We are going to work with the province to try to get a more specific report about this area particularly,” said Skrepnek.

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“We want to better understand what exactly the issues are here and if there is anything we can recommend to these property owners in terms of how they can prepare for next time.”

No injuries were reported as a result of Tuesday’s flooding.

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