As of Thursday, Jan. 19, around 25 people remain evacuated from their homes at Eagle RV Park west of Keremeos while a risk assessment is underway of the rockslide.
On Jan. 16, around 11 a.m., a rockslide sent large boulders tumbling down the mountainside, over Highway 3, one the size of a refrigerator crashing into a trailer, another demolishing a Quonset at the RV park that is across the highway. Luckily, the resident of the trailer was not home at the time of the rock fall, but her cat was.
Volunteers with Animal Lifeline Emergency Response Team (ALERT) Society went there to see if they could rescue the cat.
“She was terrified,” said a Facebook post from ALERT.
“There was a big hole in the trailer so we didn’t know if she was in or out,” said ALERT. Volunteers guessed she was still inside so they set a trap and taught the cat’s owner how to set it. For two nights the cat remained petrified and didn’t come to the trap.
But the cat’s owner managed to grab her when the trailer was being removed.
“We are all so happy she is back safe with her mom,” said ALERT.
The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen is working with engineers to determine the status of the evacuation order for 3169-10th Avenue. As of Thursday, Jan. 19, there is no new information available. Evacuees have been given emergency services including vouchers for local restaurants.
The boulders managed to miss the Fas Gas but some did hit the highway. A resident of the area Hannah Hare managed to get amazing video of the slide as it happened.
On Tuesday, Jan. 17, a technical team joined experts from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to assess the slide area. Following the assessment and a flyover, Highway 3 was re-opened. But a travel advisory for the highway from Keremeos to Hedley is in effect warning drivers to be on the lookout for falling rocks.
Tim Roberts, RDOS director for Electoral Area G (rural Keremeos) said the rockslide was traumatizing for the evacuated residents.
“When refrigerator-sized rocks come down the mountain near your home, it is very traumatic. Even if the evacuation order is lifted, it will not be easy for the residents living there,” Roberts said.
The area could experience more rocks falling due to the thawing out taking place throughout the Okanagan and Similkameen that has seen temperatures above zero for the past week.
Living in a mountain range means boulders and rock slides are a possibility, said Roberts. He points to all the large boulders that can be seen laying to rest across the Similkameen, including the famous Falling Rock right beside the highway just outside of Keremeos. Rocks fell onto Highway 3 near standing rock closing the road in 2014.
“Historically, this area has had rock slides before. In 1939, the slide in Hedley did have some fatalities,” he said. In that case, numerous houses were destroyed and two people were killed when boulders the size of cars came down the mountain and into town.
Roberts said it is always important, especially given climate change, that everyone has an emergency kit ready to go.
An Emergency Support Services reception centre is open at Victory Hall, 427-7th Avenue. Evacuees can visit the reception centre in Keremeos before 3 p.m. on Thursday, Jan.19 or call RDOS ESS at 250-486-1890.
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