Flooding at Kelowna’s Rotary Beach Park has already surpassed the barriers put in place to protect the beach.—Image credit.—Image credit: Warren Henderson/Capital News

Central Okanagan flood officials announce a new high water mark

With Okanagan Lake continuing to rise, officials are planning for a mark of 343.5 metres.

Okanagan Lake’s steady rise is continuing.

According to the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), as of Monday morning, the level of the lake was 343.246 metres, one centimetre above Sunday morning’s level (as measured by Environment and Climate Change Canada). Kalamalka Lake dropped .05 centimetres to 392.45 metres in the same time frame.

The EOC said local government crews and B.C. Forestry crews have been deployed to inspect existing barriers after last night’s high winds, review protection in vulnerable areas and make all required adjustments.

The centre added it will now be using a lake level of 343.5 metres as its new planning number for analyzing flood protection measures and residents in impacted areas are advised to do the same. Residents should also ensure protective measures include an additional buffer for wave action, it said in its latest news release.

“Although the snowpack is decreasing at higher elevations and the rate of rise on Okanagan Lake is somewhat easing, the level of Okanagan Lake exceeds historic highs, and levels could increase more sharply with significant rainfall,” stated officials in the release.

Experts say approximately 50 per cent of the upper level snow pack has yet to melt. Because of that, and for planning purposes, private property owners are being urged to follow the lead of local governments and work to protect their properties to a lake level of up to 343.5 metres, plus a 60-centimetre buffer for wave action for a total height of 344.1 metres.

On Sunday, an additional 200,000 sandbags were brought into replenish supplies. The EOC says sandbags may be in tight supply until Tuesday, when an additional 500,000 are expected to arrive. The slower day-to-day rise of the lake is providing enough time for additional sandbag supplies to arrive. Residents in need of sand and sandbags can find locations at www.cordemergency.ca/map.

Property owners pumping water from structures should pump into natural areas such as nearby creeks, ditches or on to lawns, not into storm drains or the sanitary sewer system.

All evacuation alerts and orders remain in place. Visit www.cordemergency.ca/map to search by address to determine if an area is under alert or order.

Residents and visitors are also being reminded to stay off flood protection measures. Jumping or walking on gabions or water dams is a public safety concern and could damage or undermine the device causing ruptures and significant water flows.

And those who plan to use the lake are being encouraged to “wake-free.”

As per the latest video released by Kelowna’s Mayor Colin Basran on the Internet, residents and visitors are urged to find non-motorized boating options to enjoy the lake. Those choosing to use motorized watercraft are urged to be respectful – slow down and keep away from shore so wakes do not cause further erosion or flooding of lakeshore properties. Boaters also need to be cautious about wood debris floating under the surface of the lake and submerged infrastructure.

For municipal information such as boat launch, park and beach closures, and water quality advisories, go to specific municipal web pages and the web pages of the Regional District of Central Okanagan and the Westbank First Nation.

Local and visitors can also stay informed by signing up for free e-updates at www.cordemergency.ca, or call the information line at 250-469-8490.