Although Invermere and its surrounding communities don’t carry much risk of floods, in light of the recent flooding in Kimberley that saw 11 homes evacuated and 33 people set up in temporary lodging, and the high streamflow advisory for the East Kootenay region just issued by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, it’s never a bad idea to take precautions.
“We push that people be prepared,” Emergency Program Coordinator for the Columbia Valley Emergency Program Gary Burford said.
On Thursday (May 10), the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations issued a “High Streamflow Advisory” for small and medium sized rivers in the East Kootenay region. Several days of warm weather have seen a “transition in mountain snowpacks,” and as temperatures soar over the next several days, river levels are expected to rise in response to the rapid snowmelt, the advisory stated.
According to Burford, likely the last time Invermere saw any serious flooding was in 2007, when water from the Columbia River ran over the roadway in the Athalmer area. Burford also noted an instance, also about five years ago, when a small creek running beneath a road near Panorama saw massive increases in water level and ended up taking out a section of the roadway. However, Burford said these areas have been well diked since and that the dikes are checked at least once a year.
“Sometimes we’ll get flash flooding,” he said. “Quite often it’s a little creek that you wouldn’t even recognize.”
Floods are most likely to happen during June, when the snow melt and runoff from the mountains combines with the highest concentration of rainy days, sometimes leading to increased water levels in the Columbia and Kootenay rivers. However, said Buford, the Columbia River rarely gives them any problems.
“The bottom line is that Lake Windermere is so big, and will take a lot of water,” he said.
Still, Burford keeps a constant eye on weather reports and water levels in all the major waterways, from the two major rivers to Toby Creek and Dutch Creek. One of the major advantages the Columbia Valley has is that there are very few homes along these waterways. There are a few homes along Lake Windermere that are built dangerously low, but Burford said a major part of preventing flood damage is for the owners take preventative measures. The Columbia Valley Emergency Program does keep plenty of sandbags on hand, although they did just send 10,000 to Kimberley to help with flood control there.
“There’s no one area that is really bad or gives us problems every year,” said Burford. “The challenge in this valley is that half of the homes, people don’t live year-round in them.”
Burford cautions families to watch weather reports for excessive rain and to watch water levels in nearby creeks and rivers.
According to the Provincial Emergency Program website, in case of possible flooding, families should have an emergency plan, an emergency supply kit, a plan for protecting your home and a full tank of gas in your vehicle. For more information about the Provincial Emergency Program, visit www.pep.bc.ca.