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Water levels in B.C.’s Okanagan Lake raises new flooding concern

Malcolm Uttley places sandbags along a small canal between Kalamalka Lake and Wood Lake at the Tween Lake Resort in Oyama B.C., just north of the City of Kelowna, on May 12, 2017. Homeowners are being asked to build nearly one-metre high sandbag barriers to protect their property from possible flooding caused by rising water levels in British Columbia’s Okanagan Lake.

Jeff Bassett/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Homeowners are being asked to build nearly one-metre high sandbag barriers to protect their property from possible flooding caused by rising water levels in British Columbia's Okanagan Lake.

Stacey Harding, risk manager of the Central Okanagan Emergency Centre, said that while cooler temperatures have slowed snow melt, rain may bring water into homes.

"What we're recommending is that people do take this very seriously and do get their waterfront protection measures in," he said Tuesday.

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The Central Okanagan Regional District said crews in the Kelowna area are making plans to deploy flood protection measures.

Since Monday, the lake has risen more than 2.5 centimetres, the district said in its daily update on flooding conditions across the region.

"Residents in Kelowna neighbourhoods between William R. Bennett Bridge and Kelowna General Hospital area might see work crews installing flood protection measures on the beach along the lakeshore starting (Tuesday)," the release said.

The regional district planned to use various measures including bladder dams and sandbags along the nearly two-kilometre stretch of waterfront just south of the Bennett Bridge.

Lake levels have reached 342.7 metres and flood protection measures in two parks in West Kelowna were underway, while other barriers had already been set up in West Kelowna and along Bellevue Creek, in Kelowna's south end, the district reported.

"If water reaches the 343-metre level, low lying areas adjacent to the lake will flood and creeks such as Mission and Mill will begin to backflow causing them to potentially spill their banks," a district release warned Monday.

Recent rains and cool weather mean heavy snowpacks haven't melted in the hills around the Central Okanagan but Environment Canada was forecasting several days of warm weather ahead for the Interior, with temperatures expected to reach 27 degrees by early next week.

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"With water levels at record highs and snow remaining in the high elevation watersheds, the potential for flooding due to rain, wind or warm temperatures is still a risk," the district said, estimating the potential could persist into June.

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District said an evacuation order for 11 of 13 properties near Tappen had been lifted, but remained in effect for two homes, including one belonging to 75-year-old Roy Sharp, who vanished May 6 when a mudslide hit.

Evacuation orders were also lifted for 17 properties along the west side of Okanagan Lake following a minor slide on Saturday, but the Central Okanagan Regional District said about 400 people across the region were still out of their homes in other areas.

In northeastern B.C., the River Forecast Centre downgraded a flood warning to a flood watch on the Beatton River near Fort St. John, and levels in other waterways through the area were also forecast to continue receding this week.

Video: Justin Trudeau tours flood zone in Gatineau, Quebec (The Canadian Press)
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