Johnsons Landing resident said Gar Creek fluctuating for past few days
A massive mudslide Thursday that destroyed at least one home, or as many as five depending on who you talk, has residents in Johnsons Landing feeling uneasy about the stability of the terrain near creeks.
Gail Spliter, who lives approximately one kilometer north of the Gar Creek slide, told The Nelson Daily Thursday afternoon that on-site geotechnical engineers told residents to be extremely cautious.
“We’ve been told that more (debris) could come down and to stay 200 metres away from the slide . . . period,” explained Spliter, adding there were four to five houses hit by the slide.
The slide occurred near the end of the road on the north arm of Kootenay Lake on the south shore.
The community of Johnsons Landing has a population of just 35 residents.
Spliter was inside her house when around 10:45 a.m., she heard a loud roar.
“We looked out of the house and we could see the cloud of dust maybe 20 metres in the air,” Spliter said.
“The slide didn’t come down all in one pass and it’s gone in ways that are sort of unpredictable, but it was still really big.”
Four people remain unaccounted for after the slide. A state of local emergency has now been declared in Area D, according to RDCK Emergency Operations Centre spokesman Bill Macpherson.
Spliter said the slide flashed down Gar Creek, which had been flowing erratically for the past few days.
“The creek was chocolate colour . . . but if you go out almost anywhere in the West Kootenays right now, all the creeks are chocolate,” said Spliter, noting the slide is the same place an avalanche occurred during the winter.
“But what was happening on Gar, it was like the creek was surging,” she added. “(The creek) would rise up a foot or two then come down. It was doing this for three to four days.”
Geotechnical engineers told Spliter the erratic flow is a sign the creek was damming in the mountains.
Water would overflow before weakening the dam and bursting, bringing down a title wave of debris.
Spliter said she was talking to a couple of fishermen in Kootenay Lake witnessing the slide.
“They said they watched as the slide moved, then stopped, then moved, then stopped . . . and then it all just came down.”
Spliter said several people in the community took domestic water from Gar Creek, including houses flattened by the slide.
The Nelson Daily learned the RDCK evacuated all residents from Johnsons Landing.
Area D director Andy Shadrack, along with Amy Watson, were in Kaslo Thursday evening getting food for 80 people.
RCMP has set up a roadblock to keep people from the slide.
Some people who work south of the slide were ferried home around the slide by boat.
Officials remain concerned more debris may come down, especially with the weather changing for the weekend.
Friday is calling for a 60 percent chance of showers in the afternoon with risk of a thunderstorm.
Saturday and Sunday, showers are expected throughout the day.
Johnsons Landing is a remote community approximately one hour north of Kaslo.