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Monitoring for flooding as Okanagan Lake exceeds full pool

City of Penticton and fire department ready to activate sandbagging or tiger dams if necessary
Okanagan Lake in Penticton has reached full pool and will continue to rise over the next couple weeks. (Monique Tamminga Western News)

The City of Penticton and the fire department are closely monitoring waterways for flooding now that Okanagan Lake has gone over full pool.

Water has been steadily rising over the past week due to increased rainfall in the Central and South Okanagan. The Penticton Fire Department and city crews will act on armouring the lakefront with sandbags or tiger dams to prevent damage if levels continue to rise. The city will notify the community should these measures need to be implemented.

According to Penticton’s dam manager Shaun Reimer, Okanagan Lake is rising about two centimetres a day and he’s had to increase the outflows to compensate for it. Now, water is heading south through Oliver to Osoyoos Lake and beyond.

Reimer said he doesn’t see the lake flooding but ‘never say never.’

“We are living in strange times. Last year, at this time we were dealing with drought and a heat dome. Now we have had a massive rain system that saw Mission Creek (in Kelowna) rise 65 millimetres in one day from that rain.”

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Also, predicting the weather is extremely difficult as systems move around, he said.

“The rain system was predicted for the Kootenays but it came our way,” Reimer added. The forecast for the next week doesn’t look any better with scattered rain predicted for the next seven days or more.

As for water being sent south through Oliver and Osoyoos, work has been done to build up banks to prevent erosion from fast-flowing waters, said Reimer.

“We’ve done ongoing maintenance of bank protection in Oliver but residents in South Okanagan may see some fields flooded and that can be concerning, we understand that.”

All eyes have been on water levels since the floods of 2017 and 2018, he said. Okanagan Lake flooded and the army had to be called in to sandbag along the Penticton side of Lakeshore Drive. Repairs to flood damage on Summerland’s waterfront were massive.

In 2020, Okanagan Lake was 22 centimetres higher than it is now, said Reimer.

The city is asking anyone boating on Okanagan Lake to keep speeds down to prevent shoreline erosion and be extra vigilant as there may be logs and other debris floating in the lake at this time. Please ensure all boats and docks are properly secured against rising water levels.

Homes located in the low-lying areas with high groundwater may start to see water seepage into their basements due to the higher than usual lake levels. As a preventative measure, homeowners should inspect their basement or crawl space sump pumps to ensure they are operating correctly.

According to the city, sandbags will be made available to city residents should water levels become a concern.

The advice comes as the River Forecast Centre lifts high streamflow advisories for the Okanagan, Similkameen, Boundary and Columbia regions, but maintains them for waterways in the east and west Kootenay, Thompson and along the Fraser River from Quesnel to the ocean.

High streamflow advisories alerting residents to possible rapid increases in river levels, have also been added for the Bella Coola and Dean rivers on the central coast and for the Bulkley River and its tributaries north and south of Smithers.

A flood warning covering the Liard River and its tributaries between Fort Nelson and Watson Lake in northeastern B.C., remains unchanged, as does the high streamflow advisory for most waterways across the extreme northwest corner of the province.

— with a file from The Canadian Press

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Monique Tamminga

About the Author: Monique Tamminga

Monique brings 20 years of award-winning journalism experience to the role of editor at the Penticton Western News. Of those years, 17 were spent working as a senior reporter and acting editor with the Langley Advance Times.
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