Rising water levels, rising danger along Okanagan creeks and rivers

Click to play video: 'Okanagan residents urged to play it safe along creek and river banks'
Okanagan residents urged to play it safe along creek and river banks
WATCH: As water levels in local creeks and rivers rise rapidly due to the snowbelt, the public is being urged to stay away from banks and water edges. Klaudia Van Emmerik reports. – May 3, 2023

Graham Morgan walks his dog along Mission Creek in Kelowna, B.C., regularly, but right now he’s being extra careful.

“Every day we’re down here,” Morgan told Global News Wednesday morning.  “He loves walking but we keep him away from that bank.”

With warm temperatures accelerating snowmelt in the mountains, water in creeks and rivers is rising rapidly and moving faster and faster.

“Mission Creek usually has a volume of about two to four cubic meters per second. So we’re already you know, close to 10 times that of normal  or low flow levels,” said Mike Day, search manager with Central Okanagan Search and Rescue (COSAR).

Day said current water flows in Mission Creek are about 32 cubic meters per second, and depending on the weather forecast could go up to 100 in the next few days.

Story continues below advertisement

“It could go up over double what it is now,” Day said.

With his experience as a search and rescue volunteer, Day knows all too well the dangers lurking along river banks.

“The dangers not only include the fast moving water, the banks themselves can be very unstable.” he said.

“When the current comes up, it can undercut those, undermine them and they can become unstable and people close to the edges could be sucked in when the bank collapses into the river.”

Day is urging people to be aware and stay away from the fast moving water in creeks and rivers.

Click to play video: 'Warmer weather sets off spring flooding risk'
Warmer weather sets off spring flooding risk

Day added that the message is especially important for those going out for walks with their dogs.

Story continues below advertisement

“They can be distracted by birds, especially larger dogs. Day said. “They are subject to sliding in from unstable banks as well. People should be aware that in most cases, pets will self rescue. They should never follow them into the river.”

While the exact details are not known, it was almost a year ago when Kelowna resident Chelsea Cardno, 31, was walking her dog along Mission Creek.

Somehow the pair ended up in the water and were never seen alive again.

“She was found downstream a number of days later after several search operational periods,” Day said. “So nobody goes out expecting to go into the river and that’s what people have to really consider when they’re walking along the Greenway, especially with their pets.”

“The B.C. River Forecast Centre has placed most of the Okanagan under a flood watch, which means water may approach or exceed banks.”

The possibility of rain over the coming days is adding to the level of concern.

It has emergency program officials keeping a close eye on the weather, especially what could be a moderate to heavy rainfall event on Friday and could bring with it some major repercussions.

Story continues below advertisement

“The snow starts to melt and then the rain sits on top of it and it causes fast water coming through the mid range to high elevation mountains into our streams,” said Sandra Follack, Central Okanagan emergency program coordinator.

“It rises significantly within an hour or two and then works its way through the system. It can overfill the banks and cause some problems.”

People living in low-lying areas or areas prone to flooding are  being urged to be prepared with a 72-hour grab bag.

More information on flood preparedness can be found on the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations website. 

In Kelowna, sandbags can be picked up at the main firehall on Enterprise Way.

Residents in other communities can call their local fire department to find out sandbag pickup locations.

Click to play video: 'How will 2023 compare to previous flood and fire seasons?'
How will 2023 compare to previous flood and fire seasons?

Sponsored content