Boundary freshet 2020: At least 189 properties ordered to evacuate as of June 1

Real-time gauges on the West Kettle, Kettle and Granby rivers suggested Monday water near peak

As of Monday at 5 p.m., at least 189 properties in the Grand Forks area had been issued evacuation orders by the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB), as water in the Kettle and Granby rivers raced through the watershed after a weekend of heavy rain and snowmelt.

The Boundary was issued a formal flood warning Monday, as that water began to gather downstream.

At the Grano Creek automated snow monitoring station located high in the watershed, 50 millimetres of rain fell on a sizeable snowpack over the weekend, said RDKB emergency operations centre deputy director Chris Marsh in a Monday afternoon update.

“That’s proven to be a huge challenge for us,” Marsh said. Around 3:45 p.m. Monday, real-time gauges for the Granby River at Grand Forks, as well as for the West Kettle and Kettle rivers at Westbridge showed water volumes lowering. But, Marsh said, there can be an approximate 16-hour delay between the Westbridge gauges and what rushes through Grand Forks.

“Residents are warned that the river levels have exceeded bank-full or will exceed bank-full imminently, and that flooding of areas adjacent to the rivers affected will result,” a June 1 RDKB release reads. According to the RDKB, 20-year return levels in the Kettle River would amount to a high flood risk for low-lying properties in the region.

Evacuation centre established in Grand Forks

With the surge in evacuation orders Monday, the RDKB has set up an evacuation centre at the Jack Goddard Memorial Arena in Grand Forks, where evacuees are asked to check in with staff. For a list of all evacuation orders for the Boundary region, click here.

To prepare for flooding, the RDKB declared a State of Local Emergency on May 29, triggering the release of provincial resources to the region. By Saturday morning, Grand Forks residents could see 40 BC Wildfire crew members unfurling giant lengths of orange Tiger dams – fillable bladders used as emergency flood protection – on the southeast corner of downtown Grand Forks.

Across the Kettle River on 68th Avenue between 1st Street and west towards Interfor, crews built a large earth berm to block the river water there, should it have breached its banks. By Saturday evening, however, the city had altered the berm to allow for alternating one-way traffic along that stretch of 68th Avenue, as river forecasts drew a slightly more promising picture.

Some downtown businesses sandbagged their buildings’ most vulnerable points, while a legion of volunteers heaved sandbags seemingly non-stop at the Grand Forks arena, filling thousands for residents who needed them.

Temperatures across the Boundary were initially projected to be more than 10 degrees above average over the last weekend, accompanied by erratic thunderstorms and heavy rain across the Kettle River watershed. Saturday turned out to be much cooler than expected, possibly slowing some snowmelt in higher regions.

Considering the forecast, the BC River Forecast Centre issued a Flood Watch advisory for the Boundary region Thursday, when river flow forecast graphs for the region showed the west end of the Kettle River system near Westbridge predicted to peak above 2018 levels, when low-lying properties in that region were damaged in a one in 100-year flood event. As of May 31, the BC River Forecast Centre suggested that the western section of the Kettle would peak at five-year return levels – the highest for the year, but well below 2018 returns.

A projection for the Kettle River at Ferry, Wash., indicated Monday morning that the river was at or near its peak for at least a week, but the trend line for the first week of June suggested the water level would be slow to fall far below a minor flooding stage.

The Kettle River has been running near its bank-full capacity for over a month, and at its latest crest on May 19 overran a damaged berm and flooded into the Grand Forks neighbourhood of Johnson Flats. On May 31, residents teamed up with sandbag volunteers to patch the hole themselves. While the river crept around the edges of the sandbag berm on Monday, volunteers arrived once again to stem the flow, in an effort to keep river water from impacting the same handful of properties for the second time in two weeks.


@jensenedw
Jensen.edwards@grandforksgazette.ca

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A series of thunder storms on May 30 and early on May 31 dropped lots of rain and caused local rivers and tributaries to swell over the weekend. (Jensen Edwards/Grand Forks Gazette)

An earth berm was built on 68th Avenue between Interfor and the connecting bridge to Highway 3. (Jensen Edwards/Grand Forks Gazette)

Doug Dunbar loads a truck with sandbags on Sunday. (Jensen Edwards/Grand Forks Gazette)

Emily Houde directs traffic in the loading area at the Grand Forks arena on May 31. (Jensen Edwards/Grand Forks Gazette)

Grand Forks firefighters and BC Wildfire members spend Saturday and Sunday unfurling temporary dams along Riverside Drive and through alleyways and back yards along the Granby and Kettle rivers. (Jensen Edwards/Grand Forks Gazette)

Grand Forks firefighters and BC Wildfire members spend Saturday and Sunday unfurling temporary dams along Riverside Drive and through alleyways and back yards along the Granby and Kettle rivers. (Jensen Edwards/Grand Forks Gazette)

At the Grand Forks arena, dozens of volunteers worked on an assembly line to fill the beds of trucks that queued up through the parking lot to take the bags to vulnerable areas. (Jensen Edwards/Grand Forks Gazette)

On Friday night downtown businesses and some residents held an outdoor meeting at 4th Street and Market Avenue to try and get a handle on what the city was going to do to protect them. People came out with more questions than answers for city officials who were present. It was then that Grand Forks learned that 40 BC Wildfire crew members would be deployed to the city beginning Saturday morning to install Tiger dams. (Jensen Edwards/Grand Forks Gazette)

A handful of downtown storefronts were blocked by stacked sandbags by Sunday afternoon. (Jensen Edwards/Grand Forks Gazette)

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