Water levels in rivers throughout the Elk Valley continue to rise. Soranne Floarea/The Free Press

RDEK encourages Elk Valley residents to prepare for flood season

With spring melt comes rising water levels and an increased flood risk throughout the region

With the start of spring weather, the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) is urging residents to prepare for potential flooding.

According to this year’s snowpack assessments, the RDEK claimed that overland flooding risk remains low. However, high elevation melt continues to raise water levels in rivers and creeks, putting a number of homes and properties at continued risk for flooding.

Property owners uphold primary responsibility for protecting their homes. Landowners located near rivers, creeks, streams or other low lying areas are encouraged to take precautions seriously.

To prepare, the RDEK set out self fill sandbag stations throughout the region, including one at the Fernie Public Works Yard on Railway Avenue. The sandbag stations have sand and bags for public distribution, however residents must bring their own shovels and gloves.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, new safety measures have been implemented at the stations, such as the creation of separate piles to accommodate for social distancing. The use of personal protective equipment including gloves, masks, and eye protection is also recommended. Other related signage and protocols are present at the site.

“Preparation and prevention are key. Residents who are concerned that they may be impacted by high water levels should take steps now to prepare themselves,” said Regional Emergency Operations Centre director, Terry Balan, in a press release. “At the emergency management level, we are working cooperatively with all the municipalities and First Nations in the East Kootenay and are ready to provide support should it be required as we head into the spring freshet.”

Residents at risk of flooding are also urged to ensure water courses on properties remain clear of obstructions, and that roof water is directed away from buildings. The RDEK also suggests moving valuables to higher ground, ensuring sump pumps work properly, and reviewing insurance. Assembling emergency kits and developing household evacuation plans are also recommended.

In the event of an evacuation, residents will first be advised of the potential need for evacuation. At that point, information and proceeding orders will be disseminated according to the situation. However, some evacuations require residents to evacuate immediately, and without warning. Residents are unable to return until orders are lifted.

If residents are forced from their homes in an evacuation, local volunteer based Emergency Support Services (ESS) will supply basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. For information on how to join the ESS as a volunteer, email Anita Charest, the Emergency Program coordinator, at acharest@rdek.bc.ca.

Should an emergency like a widespread flood occur, the RDEK’s East Kootenay Emergency Management Program, and if needed, an Emergency Operations Centre, will be activated to support agencies responding to the situation. The RDEK’s Flood Response Unit will also activate in the event of threat to human life, habitation, health, or great damage to structures.

For more information on how to prepare for flooding and other emergencies, visit the RDEK’s site at Rdek.bc.ca. To report wide scale flooding, call the Provincial Emergency Coordination Centre at 1-800-663-3456.


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