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Flood watches in B.C. limited to smaller creeks

The Elk River, shown in a 2004 file photo, is reaching levels that are high, but typical of recent years.

Kevin Moloney/The New York Times

Flood watches have been issued for southeastern B.C. and mudslides have closed sections of highway, but the province's River Forecast Centre says the area is unlikely to see the major flooding that has caused towns in Alberta to declare states of emergency Thursday.

"In terms of bigger river flooding, it's not much of an issue. It's the smaller tributary creeks right now," said Dave Campbell, the head of the River Forecast Centre.

The flood watches were issued at 10:00 a.m. for the east and west Kootenay region, as well as the upper and lower Columbia River region. Flood watches mean river levels are rising and could soon exceed their banks.

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Heavy rainfall in southwestern Alberta has caused significant flooding, including around Canmore where the Trans Canada Highway has been washed out. With the Trans Canada closed east of Golden, DriveBC is recommending highways 5 and 16 as alternate routes.

Mudslides have also closed Highway 31 north of Kaslo, according to DriveBC. Authorities hope to have the highway reopened Thursday afternoon. Highway 31A between Kaslo and New Denver has also been closed due to a washout. No detours are available.

Mr. Campbell said the bulk of the rain has fallen on the east side of the Rockies, and he was optimistic the most intense rainfall period for B.C. has passed.

Some areas in the southeast corner of the province have received 130 millimetres of rain in the past two days. Environment Canada has forecast up to 30 mm of rain for the region Thursday.

The bigger rivers in the region, including the Slocan, Elk and Kootenay rivers, are flowing at levels seen every two to five years, said Mr. Campbell. "We actually saw higher flow on them last year," Mr. Campbell said.

Mr. Campbell cautioned that although major flooding is unlikely, big rivers can take a while to flush water through and levels could still rise throughout the day.

Residents of the area should take caution around the creeks and rivers with high water flow, Campbell said. "When they get saturated like this, there's a lot of erosion going on and the banks get unstable."

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