Central Okanagan School District staff work with George Elliot Secondary students to set up flood barriers on the school property adjacent to Middle Vernon Creek. Image Credit: Barry Gerding/Black Press

Preparing for rain

Lake Country residents brace themselves for more flooding this week.

Lake Country residents are bracing for anticipated heavy rainfall starting Thursday evening that could bring a renewed wave of spring runoff flooding.

Since Tuesday, property owners along Bottom Wood Lake Road from Berry Road to Wood Lake have been digging trenches and sandbag barriers to deal with the overflow that has already overwhelmed Duck Lake.

With weather forecast calling for up to 20 mm of rain at the valley bottoms and 40 mm at higher elevations, the combination of rain and its impact on speeding up the snow melt is the community on flood alert.

Lake Country received a delivery yesterday of 21,000 sandbags for the public to use while district work crews are keeping a close eye on the water intake at Wood Lake to make sure debris doesn’t backup the water flow and that electrical and sanitary sewer lift facilities are sandbag-fortified from potential flood damage.

Also being addressed is flood erosion in the upper Wood Lake watershed that sent spring runoff pouring downstream ultimately into Duck Lake.

“We hope the storms and torrential downpours being forecast don’t materialize but our understanding is the good amount of precipitation we had last Friday that started all this was less than half what is anticipated for Thursday and Friday,” said Karen Miller, communications officer for the District of Lake Country.

And that rain will this week only add to other concerns such as the rising levels of Wood and Duck lakes, the fast flow of the creeks and the potential creek bank erosion impact which could send vegetation debris downstream.

“Middle Vernon Creek feeds into Wood Lake so we don’t want to have that backing up because debris is plugging the entry point to the lake. Our staff are keeping a close watch on that,” Miller said.

She added that boaters in Wood Lake need to also be cognizant of the elevated amount of debris floating in the lake.

Meanwhile, the runoff converging into Duck Lake from the Beaver Road area continues to pour down the Jim Bailey Road spillway, which has been excavated at several points to provide some runoff pressure relief.

Duck Lake has already overflowed its banks, causing flooding issues for the Holiday Park RV resort and Meadowbrook Estates mobile home residents along Commonwealth Road on the Okanagan Indian Band’s reserve #9.

More than 190 residences remain on evacuation order between the Commonwealth and Bottom Wood Lake Road flood zones.

Larry Paul, secretary-treasurer of the Central Okanagan School District, said he received a call at 9:30 p.m. last night from the Emergency Operation Centre informing him that that George Elliot Secondary School could face an evacuation alert order.

Paul said a plan is now in place to dismiss the students earlier than normal if necessary. Additional buses will be called in to take students home and a student and staff muster area will be established.

“We have a general idea in place for protocols for evacuating schools in case of an emergency, but we make it more specific for each school based on the situation as it arises,” Paul said.

He said school district staff and students were filling up sandbags and creating sandbag barriers along Middle Vernon Creek which runs past the school along with sump pumps set up to disperse any overflow into the storm drains.

Paul said students with spares or in phys ed class have been using that time to help fill sandbags both for the school flood protection effort and for other residents.

“It’s probably more physically challenging to load those bags with sand than anything they will do in P.E. today,” Paul said.

“Our biggest concern right now is what happens on Friday. That will be the tell-tale day as anything on the weekend we will have some time to recover.”

Paul said parents will be notified by automated phone calls and media alerts if George Elliot doesn’t open for classes on Friday.

Paul said he’s worked in the district for 21 years, and he can’t recall where a school was closed due to flooding.

“I think about 20 years ago there was an issue with the high water level of Okanagan Lake but that didn’t impact any schools,” he said.

Another focal point of concern has been the popular Kangaroo Creek Farm on Hill Road.

While concerns for the animals and offers of providing help have poured into the facility, the owners have expressed on their answering service thanks for the concerns but their property nor the animals are not threatened by flooding issues.

Miller cited the example of 13 students from the Lake Country Adventure Centre after-school program who showed up at Swalwell Park on Tuesday afternoon to fill up sandbags as one of many examples of local residents pulling together to help each other out.

The centre operates out of the Aspen Grove golf course building, which is also at flood risk and subject to an evacuate alert order.

For Lake Country residents, sandbags are available at Winfield Fire Station #71 on Okanagan Centre Road East and Swalwell Park.

Sand is also available at Swalwell Park at 9950 Bottom Wood Lake Rd., Commonwealth Road near Holiday Park and Deldor Road.

For more information or flood updates, go to cordemergency.ca.