Carli Berry/Capital News                                Wildfire firefighter Evan Yano helps make sandbags for the community along with fellow firefighters at the old Enterprise Steel Fabrications site, Wednesday, May 24.

Carli Berry/Capital News Wildfire firefighter Evan Yano helps make sandbags for the community along with fellow firefighters at the old Enterprise Steel Fabrications site, Wednesday, May 24.

NEWSMAKER 2017: Mother Nature shows force with extreme floods

The first of our two-part Kelowna newsmakers of 2017 piece is floods.

From record flooding to disastrous wildfires, 2017 will go down as one of B.C’s most catastrophic years ever for extreme weather.

Kelowna was first awash with water-woes May 4 when a storm dropped so much rain that Mill Creek broke its banks and flooded homes and businesses that lined the waterway.

Among those hit unexpectedly were residents of a Spencer Road neighbourhood, on the Ellison side of the creek.

Area resident Francine Blanchard told the Capital News at the time that her neighbourhood, which was established in 1995, had never flooded. Given how far the creek is situated from property lines nobody expected it ever would. It was a rude awakening when water started to spill through her windows.

RELATED: ONE IN 200 YEAR FLOOD

“Eventually it got too high for our boots, so we started to gather things from upstairs that were important to us,” she said.

By the time the worst of it was over, the basement was five feet deep with water, and Blanchard, her husband and their tenant were forced to leave their home. It was months before they could return.

It was a story that was heard from points all along the creek, and by the time the city called a State of Emergency May 6 area residents were well into the habit of sandbagging. They weren’t necessarily ready, however, for the news to come.

City officials called a press conference May 10, announcing that Kelowna may be hit by a one-in-200 year flood.

RELATED: FOOD BANK SET BACK BY ROUGH WEATHER

“What we are expecting to see is unprecedented water levels as a result of rain, rising temperatures and melting snowpack (and) the ground is already saturated,” said Brian Reardon, CORD Emergency Operations director.

“In other words, it’s the perfect storm.”

Reardon said emergency staff were hoping for the best, but warned that those who are in the flood path would be wise to start preparing for the worst. That meant sandbagging to protect property, preparing a “go-bag” of essentials for when the evacuation order comes down and securing a place for both family and pets to find refuge. All Kelowna hotel rooms, said Reardon, are already booked.

RELATED: STUNNING VIEWS FROM FLOOD FLY-OVER

“Last week’s flooding may prove to be a dress rehearsal for a much larger event,” he warned.

When the water rose it was more slowly than anticipated, prompting criticism of city officials. That said, the damage they warned of did come, just more slowly than expected.

By the end of May, Okanagan Lake levels surpassed the mark met in a previously record breaking 1997 flood, leaving lake adjacent home owners to start doing the heavy sandbagging.

Beaches were closed and tourism operators who utilized the lake struggled to start up in time for the season.

Boating was not recommended, as flooding pushed trees, branches and other debris into the lake, creating a hazard for boaters. There was also concern about waves further damaging lakefront homes.

RELATED: ANXIETY FLOWS WITH FLOODS

All around the lake, water infrastructure also took a beating. Docks were peeled back at all beaches and even today the reconstruction efforts have barely made a dent. Tourism operators and downtown businesses have often lamented the impact.

It was a remarkable season and it changed the way some political bodies are conducting themselves.

Kelowna council is one of many set to take a closer look at how to mitigate the effects of climate change.

A Community Trends report looked at the extreme weather that threw the city into chaos and offered some suggestions on what should be offered going forward.

“By understanding how climate change is impacting our community, it is possible to understand how the city and community should respond to this emerging issue to complement the city’s efforts on climate action,” said Ross Soward, planner specialist.

“Through the four lenses of Our Environment, Our People/Health, Our Economy and Our Infrastructure, this year’s Community Trends Report looks at these extreme weather events, using the best available information, to help us understand what we can expect in the years to come and what we might be able to do to prepare.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Randy Mills/@poohbah431111 - Twitter)
Motorcyclist rushed to Kelowna General Hospital after collision

The collision occurred around 7:15 p.m. at the intersection of Highway 33 and Gerstmar Road

Three Lake Country firefighters scaled Spion Kop in support of their Movember fundraiser. (District of Lake Country photo)
Lake Country firefighters scale Spion Kop for Movember fundraiser

The three firefighters did the arduous 2.63-kilometre climb while breathing bottled air

Quigley Elementary. (Google Maps)
UPDATE: More COVID-19 cases confirmed at Kelowna Schools

Interior Health announced exposures at both Kelowna Secondary and Quigley Elementary on Sunday

Former Vancouver Canucks goaltender Richard Brodeur discussing his paintings with the executive director of the Arts Council of the Central Okanagan Kirsteen McCulloch. (Contributed)
Former Canucks goalie King Richard’s art displayed at Kelowna gallery

Richard Brodeur starred in the Vancouver Canucks’ 1982 Stanley Cup run

Real Canadian Superstore in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
Kelowna Superstore employee tests positive for COVID-19

The last day the employee worked was Nov. 23

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A confirmed case of COVID-19 at Vernon’s Silver Star Elementary School has been reported. (Google Maps)
COVID case confirmed at Okanagan elementary school

Member of Silver Star Elementary community in Vernon self-isolating at home; parents alerted Nov. 28

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Steve French caught the halo moon on his camera on Saturday night. (Steve French Facebook)
Did you see the halo moon last night?

The halo is actually millions of tiny ice crystals

Most Read