By Steve Hubrecht
Rain in the Columbia Valley, but 229 properties in the Fairmont Hot Springs area remain on evacuation alert.
The properties were placed on alert on Monday, May 24, in the midst of one of the valley’s longest continual rainstorm in many years, which drenched the area from Sunday, May 23 through to late afternoon on Tuesday, May 25, filling debris ponds and debris basins in the flood mitigation systems in the Fairmont area with water, rocks, gravel and other debris.
The creeks did not burst their banks, the debris remained in the traps, and although more rain and thunderstorms were in the forecast for most of this week, these did not materialize, at least not to the degree predicted.
“Although we did have additional rain yesterday, there are no noticeable changes in the upper debris basins,” explained Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) information officer Loree Duczek in a press release on Thursday, May 27. “Having said that, the evacuation alert will remain in place until we are able to remove the debris from the basins and restore capacity within the system.”
Duczek said the alert is still in place because with the debris basins on both Fairmont Creek and Cold Spring Creek near capacity, the potential for debris flooding remains high, particularly with the unsettled spring weather and onset of spring freshet. “The accumulated debris has reduced the capacity of the creeks to withstand a future event, and until we can restore that capacity, the risk remains,” said Duczek.
According to the press release, geotechnical experts are working to determine when the basins can be safely accessed with equipment and how much debris needs to be removed before the evacuation alert can be lifted. In the meantime, residents of those 229 properties should stay vigilant, have a grab-and-go kit prepared, and be ready to leave on a moment’s notice if an evacuation order is issued.
The RDEK is urging all Columbia Valley residents to sign up for the regional evacuation notification system (ENS) if they have not already done so. “I cannot stress enough how important this tool is in our toolbox. Emergencies can happen at any time, and this notification system will alert people immediately when every second counts,” stressed Duczek in the press release. “We have 229 properties in the Fairmont evacuation alert area – and as of Tuesday night, only 60 people had signed up for the notification service. Those people received the notification in under one minute. The door to door notification to those 229 properties took our hardworking members from the RCMP, fire department and Search and Rescue six hours to complete. No matter where you live in the East Kootenay please sign up for the notification system today.”
Registration details and information are available at www.rdek.bc.ca.
Stay tuned to the Pioneer’s website and Facebook page for updates as the evacuation alert situation continues to evolve.