For the first time in more than a week, flood disaster relief officials in Grand Forks had good news to report as forecasts of a second surge of catastrophic flooding is no longer expected and dozens of members of the Canadian armed forces have either arrived or are on their way.
Chris Marsh, director of the Emergency Operations Centre in Grand Forks, said during a national conference call Friday afternoon that while officials expect water levels on the Kettle, West Kettle and Granby rivers to continue rising until peaking Saturday afternoon, officials no longer expect a repeat of the horrendous flooding that forced close to 3,000 residents from their homes in and around Grand Forks last Thursday and Friday.
Dozens of homes and businesses in Grand Forks were destroyed last week as catastrophic flooding had much the city’s downtown core under several feet of water.
Early this week, officials expected a second wave of flooding to surpass last week’s catastrophic event.
“We no longer expect that,” said Marsh.
Forecasts on Friday call for water levels on the Kettle River to rise between 20 and 40 centimetres overnight before peaking Saturday afternoon, but that won’t come close to the levels recorded last week when banks spilled along the Kettle, West Kettle and Granby last week, he said.
Water levels on all three rivers were 60 centimetres about record high levels dating back 70 years to 1948, he said.
Just under 1,500 properties and just under 3,000 people remain under evacuation order as of Friday, he said.
A dozen members of an advanced tactical military team arrived in Grand Forks Friday morning and another 91 soldiers are expected to arrive Friday evening, said Roly Russell, chair of the board with the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB).
“The community is enormously relieved to have their presence,” said Russell.
Marsh said soldiers will perform a number of jobs, including assisting with sandbagging and monitoring tiger dams and dikes to ensure they’re working properly.
Some of the equipment the soldiers have brought with them will also prove valuable in accessing crucial infrastructure that regular work vehicles can’t reach, he said.
While the majority of those who lost their homes and businesses were located on low-lying levels, a landslide assessment team has been focused on ensuring the safety of homes located above swollen rivers, said Marsh.
A total of 39 property owners across the region were hand-delivered “hazard notifications” that the river banks below their homes may be unstable and they should be aware their properties could be at risk, said Marsh.
With water levels expected to start decreasing early next week, the main priority will be to engage rapid assessment teams to inspect damage to homes and properties and get as many people back in their homes as quickly as possible, said Marsh.
A training course for 26 people who will assess property damage was held Thursday evening and a second course will be held Friday night in Grand Forks, he said.
“It’s our goal to get as many people back into their homes once river flows have abated,” he said.
Jennifer Mace, volunteer co-ordinator, said the amount of volunteer support for those who have lost so much remains inspirational.
“It’s amazing really,” she said, noting many people have been coming back day after day and putting in 12-hour shifts doing whatever is necessary to help.
A team of young hockey players from the Trail Smoke Eaters made the short trip to Grand Forks on Thursday to assist with filling sandbags and other duties, she said.
Anyone wishing to assist in volunteer efforts now or once the flooding subsides and cleanup begins can contact her at 1-250-442-4111, said Mace.
While there has been sporadic rain over the last couple of days in Grand Forks, the forecast no longer calls for possible thunderstorms and heavy rains, said Marsh.
Christina Lake is a very popular tourist destination during the Victoria Day holiday weekend and “this is a big area of concern” as water levels on the lake are very high and there is a huge amount of fallen trees and other debris in the water, he said.
“We’re asking people to be very careful there,” said Marsh, adding activities like boating and jet skiing are not advised at this time.
With river levels expected to peak Saturday, the EOC in Grand Forks will be holding another national media update Saturday afternoon.