RDOS urging residents to ‘act now’ in face of flood risk

By on March 20, 2018

Emergency Management Coordinator Paul Edmonds is encouraging people to “act now” in preparing for potential flooding this spring. Shown with him is RDOS WildSafeBC Coordinator Zoe Kirk. (Photo Lyonel Doherty)

The regional district is urging residents to start preparing for this year’s flood risk.

“If you flooded last year, now is the time to act,” said Emergency Management Coordinator Paul Edmonds, who has already received numerous calls from property owners worried about potential flooding.

Edmonds said snow volumes are very high right now (141 per cent of normal in this region).

“We are seeing high ground water levels which in turn may create new areas of run-off when the snow melts,” he pointed out, adding that creeks and lakes are getting full.

The regional district is already stocking up on sandbags and meeting with provincial agencies to look for areas prone to flooding.

This year, water in Okanagan Lake is being reduced early to increase its holding capacity later on.

Edmonds said they are “praying” for a gentle freshet-release this year. “A gradual snow melt is what we want to see.”

That wasn’t the case last year when rains exacerbated the flooding problem for many homeowners and farmers.

The regional district encourages people to visit its website at www.rdos.bc.ca for advice on how to flood-proof your home and what to do before, during and after a flood.

For example, prepare emergency kits for your home and car, and have a plan in place to move pets and livestock.

The regional district also advises people to build sandbag dikes in flood-prone areas, and move appliances above flood levels.

They also urge homeowners to plug all basement sewer connections, toilets, sinks and shower drains.

Edmonds said important documents should be removed from the basement, as should electrical appliances. Fuel supply equipment, such as oil tanks, should be anchored as well.

Zoe Kirk, the regional district’s WildSafeBC coordinator, said people often forget to find alternate accommodations for their pets.

“That’s one of the things people don’t think about,” she said.

Kirk said one media outlet canvassed a neighbourhood in the Central Okanagan, asking residents what they have done to prepare for an emergency in 2018.

“Every single one had done nothing,” she pointed out. “People think it’s not going to happen.”

Cameron Baughen, who works in emergency operations, said people who don’t prepare themselves end up draining the regional district’s resources.

For example, it takes a lot of resources to address a situation where an evacuee forgets to pack his or her medication, he noted.

He said some people get complacent about preparing to leave on short notice.

Baughen stated it gets really “scary” when people choose to stay in their homes during a fire evacuation. While adults cannot be forced to leave, first responders have the power and authority to remove children, he pointed out.

Of the eight goals of the BC Emergency Management System, protecting the safety and health of first responders is first on the list, while saving lives is second. Protecting property is number six.

Community Services Manager Mark Woods said last year’s flooding was a slow moving train that caused a lot of challenges for the regional district.

“People are people. When there is a fire or flood, they get emotional and want things done now.”

But Woods made it clear that they are not in the business of flood protection, only flood response.

They don’t dig out trenches with big equipment or help farmers whose properties are underwater. Fixing a washout is low on their priority list, and don’t expect a sandbagging crew to come to your rescue.

Instead, the regional district’s role is to make sure people are safe and to help them during evacuation procedures.

In the event of an evacuation, Woods encourages people to always check into the emergency operations centre before deciding to stay at a friend’s place.

Woods throws out the following question: “What are homeowners doing to ready themselves . . . what is your strategy?”

Edmonds said the regional district is looking at how to improve its website to include all the information people need during an emergency.

LYONEL DOHERTY

Special to the Times

Community Services Manager Mark Woods answers a question during a session with the media at the regional district board office in Penticton on Wednesday. Woods made it clear that they are not in the business of flood protection, only flood response.
(Photo Lyonel Doherty)

 

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2 Comments

  1. Bill

    March 18, 2018 at 7:03 pm

    Lake Osoyoos is up almost a foot since February 24 (909.4 to 910.2) Is the Zosel dam open or closed?…and what is causing the lake to rise? We all know there is a possibility of flooding again this year. Why isn’t every effort being made to get and keep lake Osoyoos as low as possible now so there is a buffer when…not if….the lake is filled with the runoff from the extra snow pack?
    The level passed 914 last year and this year the snow pack is 141% of normal!

  2. Dave Drought

    March 19, 2018 at 6:19 pm

    It seems now would be a good time to get on top of these things. Stores have supplies of sump pumps, call around for sandbags, make sure your neighbours are ok- lots of seniors out there, and use a little common sense. Getting valuables out of the crawlspace kind of thing. And most of that will still be available for next year, too.

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