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Unpredictable rain, warmer temperatures means flood threat highest June 1 – prepare now says RDKB

The confluence of the Kettle River and Granby River at Grand Forks on May 27, 2020. — Submitted photo

The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) has been working very closely with the City of Grand Forks and other regional partners to prepare for possible moderate to high levels of flooding early next week. Current river forecasts show the Kettle River at typical freshet levels for the next 48 hours, then rising to moderate flood levels on Sunday, May 31 through Tuesday, June 1 depending upon rainfall location and amounts.

Due to increasing risk of flooding, the BC River Forecast Centre issued a Flood Watch for the Boundary Region including the Kettle River, West Kettle River, Granby River and tributaries. This means that river levels are rising and will approach or may exceed bank-full. Flooding of areas adjacent to affected rivers may occur.

Environment Canada has forecast temperatures to reach the mid-thirties by Saturday, May 30 - twelve degrees above seasonal norms - with rain and possible thunderstorms late Sunday and into Monday. A great deal of uncertainty exists with any forecast more than two days out, and the RDKB will continue to receive briefings from the BC River Forecast Centre and from our own Freshet Planning Team who are assessing risks near creeks and rivers across the Boundary as well as update the public with new information.

“This freshet has really been unrelenting in the sense that the Kettle River has been close to bank-full for over a month now,” said Mark Stephens, EOC Director.

"This means any spike in temperature or precipitation puts low-lying areas immediately at risk of flooding. In the past 24 hours the forecasts have dropped slightly as we receive more accurate information, but we are still watching for a scenario that could approach or exceed what we saw in 2017 where low-lying properties were flooded and we saw access to some roads cut off."

“We have already initiated operational preparations by bringing in Tiger Dam and flood response experts to our team and will start to place equipment to protect core communities and major infrastructure if more accurate flood predictions before the weekend show that needs to happen,” said Stephens.

The RDKB EOC in cooperation with Emergency Management BC and the City of Grand Forks has flood protection equipment including Tiger Dams™ (large, tubular bladders ready to be filled with water) and HESCO Floodline bins (large, flexible cubes ready to be filled with earth) on-site in the City of Grand Forks. These are ready to be deployed to protect major public infrastructure if necessary.

“We don’t control what the weather throws at us, but we do control how prepared we are and how well we cooperate as a community and a region during an emergency,” said Diane Langman, Chair of the RDKB and EOC Policy Lead.

"From Big White to Christina Lake our communities have been working with our EOC to gather important river data and to communicate with local residents since early spring so everyone is aware that they need to prepare for possible flooding in low-lying areas."

That preparation includes signing up for emergency alerts, making sure to have a family emergency plan, and if you live on property that did see flooding in 2017, to take measures to sandbag around your home. For more information about how to prepare for the 2020 freshet, visit emergency.rdkb.com/Be-Prepared.

“We are all nervous about seeing another flood scenario given the data, models and forecasts on websites and shared on social media,” said Brian Taylor, Mayor of Grand Forks.

"What is different in 2020 is the extent to which the City of Grand Forks and the Regional District have collaborated on flood preparation. We have never, as a City, or as citizens, been more prepared, and the City is fully involved in the EOC every day through our operational and planning staff."

“We have been on high alert week after week, and this takes a toll on anyone’s ability to pay attention to emergency messages, be it for flooding or for COVID-19,” said Roly Russell, RDKB Director for Electoral Area D/Rural Grand Forks and member of the EOC Policy Group.

"We know this is overwhelming. And yet I still ask our residents to pay close attention for the coming days, and remember to sign up for RKDB emergency alerts at emergency.rdkb.com."

Sandbags and sand are currently available for residents in the following locations free of charge:

  • Beaverdell behind the Fire Hall
  • Westbridge Hall
  • Riverside Centre in Rock Creek
  • Grand Forks Arena

Residents must bring their own tools and equipment (shovels, transportation) and respect a physical distance of two metres (six feet) between workers as they fill sandbags. Anyone at risk of flooding should stay informed about local freshet conditions, and ensure they have considered plans for moving valuable items, livestock or other items to safe locations if required.

The RDKB warns everyone to stay away from the edges of watercourses and report any erosion or flooding to the Provincial Emergency Coordination Centre at 1-800-663-3456.

The RDKB will continue to update the public as new information is available.