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Flood anxiety running high for Kamloops, Enderby residents

Rising water threatens homes along Mara Lake in Sicamous, B.C. Tuesday, June 26, 2012.

Jonathan Hayward/THE CANADIAN PRESS

About 300 people have been given clearance to return to their homes in the Sicamous area, but others in nearby Kamloops and Enderby are on alert for possible evacuation as British Columbia rivers continue to run high.

"Certainly the situation is still dynamic. The threat of flooding is still high within the province and I would say vigilance is the word of the day," Chris Duffy of Emergency Management B.C. said in a daily briefing on Tuesday.

While weather was relatively dry for most of the province, a torrential deluge that fell during the weekend continued to work its way down major river systems, threatening to erode banks and flood low-lying places.

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"We still have areas of concern for the Lower Fraser, Kamloops and the Shuswap, and in general, the southeast and the northwest [of the province] – so that's a lot of ground," Mr. Duffy said.

He added that the province has 1.8 million sand bags ready to be deployed, in addition to the one million bags that have already been laid around homes and along dikes throughout B.C.

Mr. Duffy said flood control experts from Saskatchewan are on standby, and the province has lent B.C. a portable diking system.

Elsewhere, the rising waters of the Fraser caused an unexpected emergency with the aging Queen of Sidney ferry vessel and six other derelict ships moored along the river just west of Mission.

Citing a danger of the boats breaking free, Environment Minister Terry Lake issued a rare environmental emergency declaration late Tuesday to mobilize resources and equipment to head off a mishap.

A marine expert had determined that the mooring lines of the vessels were in poor shape and subject to further strain by the high water.

Should the lines break, the seven ships would pose a serious risk to other craft and several bridges downstream, according to a government news release, which added that there could also be significant environment damage.

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Mr. Duffy said about 2,000 people remain on evacuation alert around B.C.

Among them is Joy Biluk, who on Tuesday afternoon was watching the Shuswap River flow over the sidewalk in her neighbourhood on Riverdale Drive in Enderby.

"We're flooded," she said. "It's hard. We're sandbagged all around, but it's still coming in."

Ms. Biluk said she she was trying to keep a crawl space under her home dry with a pump, but her neighbours were having a tougher time with flooded basements.

Ms. Biluk said Enderby officials have warned that she and her neighbours may have to flee with "limited advance notice" if the water rises suddenly in the night.

When told she sounded calm in the circumstances, Ms. Biluk sighed.

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"I'm just hoping the weather holds and the water goes down," she said.

Denny Pearson, manager of the nearby Riverside RV Park and Campground, said long-time residents of Enderby have seen high water in the Shuswap many times.

"In 1972, it was much worse than this," he said, referring to a year of extensive flooding throughout much of southern B.C.

Doug Lundquist of Environment Canada said the forecast is for dry weather over the next three to five days in most of the province, except in the southeast and on the north coast, which could experience heavy rains.

David Campbell of the B.C. River Forecast Centre said most rivers, including the Fraser, will peak over the next few days, and should start to slowly drop after that.

He said areas of concern are along the Shuswap, Thompson and Fraser rivers, in southern B.C., and on the Skeena River system in the northwest.

Not everyone is troubled by the high water.

Braden Fandrich of Kumsheen Rafting, near Lytton, said his company is still floating the Thompson River, but has brought in some larger boats from the Fraser River to handle the bigger rapids.

"The [high] water levels don't seem to affect the ride too much," he said.

Provincial authorities, however, are advising people to stay away from swollen rivers and creeks, saying debris in the water and the possibility of collapsing banks pose significant safety risks.

With a report from Rod Mickleburgh

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About the Author
National correspondent

Mark Hume is a National Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver, writing news and feature stories on a daily basis about his home province of British Columbia. His weekly column, which often challenges the orthodoxy on environmental issues, appears every Monday. More

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