Doug Farrow A sandbag wall set up near Summerland to keep rising lake waters off water-front property.

Okanagan Lake continues to move toward record high levels

Expected temperatures of 30 C could send more melted snow water flowing down already swollen creeks.

There were reports Okanagan Lake had surpassed its all time high water mark.

According to a city representative, the lake’s level reached 343.2 metres, higher than the 1948 record level, when parts of downtown Kelowna flooded due to a lack of flood protection measures.

However those numbers appear to have been erroneous, as the level has been below that mar since the Capital News was given this information.

While the lake continues its steady rise, a forecast for temperature highs reaching 30 C or higher this weekend has turned local flood watchers concerns back to area creeks.

“First it was the creeks, then it was the lake and now it appears to be the creeks again,” said Tom Wilson, spokesman for the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre in Kelowna.

On Thursday morning, local emergency officials said the unseasonably hot weather will likely melt more snow at higher elevations, sending even more water cascading down local creeks such as Mission, Mill and Scotty creeks in Kelowna.

Mission Creek is the main supplier of water for Okanagan Lake and earlier this week, Kelowna city manager Ron Mattiussi said an estimated 113 cubic metres of water per second is now flowing down it into the lake.

“We will be doing our best to make sure debris is cleared from the creeks as quickly as possible,” he said.

Despite that, as a result of the fast-moving creek water, a huge amount of debris has been washed into the lake. That is causing safety concerns for boaters who choose to take their vessels out at this time. Boating is not recommended due to the debris in the water and the possibility boat wakes could cause wave action producing localized flooding along the lakeshore.

Adding to the problems is the ground alongside creeks is already sodden, meaning water spilling over creek banks cannot be absorbed. As a result, the EOC is continuing to urge residents living near creeks and the lakeshore to bolster their flood protection as much as possible, be vigilant about changing conditions and help their neighbours to do the same.

An estimated 1.7 million sandbags have been made available throughout the Okanagan and locally, bags and sand are being replenished daily at several locations. More information is available at cordemergency.ca.

Flood protection measures have improved since then and another weapon not available 69 years ago is also now is being put to use—the ability to release water from the Okanagan Lake at its southern end.

But provincial officials say they cannot release amounts equivalent to the amount of water pouring into the lake each day. Brian Symonds of the Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations ministry said the amount of water being released is equivalent to about 1.5 centimetres per day, while between three to four centimetres per day is flowing into the lake.

He said the amount of water being released into the Penticton River Channel—which connects Okanagan and Skaha Lakes in Penticton—is slightly more than the channel was designed to handle.

Meanwhile, the South East Kelowna Irrigation District has downgraded the boil water notice it issued for its customers due to turbidity in Hydraulic Creek—where SEKID gets its water.

But, it says, very young children, seniors and anyone with a compromised immune system should still consider boiling their tap water for at least one minute before drinking, washing food or brushing teeth with it. Alternatively, they should consider using an alternate source of water, such as bottled water. For more information, contact SEKID at 250 861-4200 or go to sekid.ca.