photos by Guy Bertrand
Larry Abenante did everything except build an ark and pair up animals on the weekend as several days of heavy rainfall created Biblical floodwater complications along the Columbia River and throughout the city.
The city’s manager of public works and an eight-member city crew fought the forces of nature and rising waters as mudslides took out streets in several areas, with massive mounds of soggy earth, forcing the closure of the “S” Hill— from AM Ford going down into East Trail—Brown Street in West Trail, and Sand Pit Road in Sunningdale.
Engineers will be involved in the “S” Hill shut down, said Abenante, to see what caused the slide.
On Friday a water main burst in Sunningdale when a torrent of storm water coursing through the veins of the city’s infrastructure backed up the sewer system near the Trail Aquatic and Leisure Centre, spilling water and sediment onto Columbia Avenue.
It was nonstop for the weekend until Sunday afternoon, said Abenante. Crews, heavy equipment, and even Abenante himself working a shovel to clear sewer drains, pitched in to deal with the water.
“You have to deal with this as it happens,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do but clean it up and take care of (the situation).”
Abenante was on call for the entire weekend since the working week ended Friday afternoon. A water main break in Sunningdale that night started the first chapter of the gospel according to Mother Nature.
As a city crew began to dig into the situation, heavy rain slammed the city, commanding a repeat performance Saturday morning. The storm’s machinations maximized the capacity of two of the city’s creeks by noon, prompting Abenante to call in another city crew and equipment in to clear the channels, setting up secondary intakes to ensure the excess water had a place to go.
McQuarrie Creek between Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital and J.L Crowe Secondary School stopped traffic around midday when it jumped its channel and created a new creek bed across a neighbourhood road.
Gorge Creek in West Trail had a mudslide as well, with city equipment and workers being called in to clear the trash racks.
Catch basins in low lying areas like Shavers Bench had some major water problems averted when debris—leaves, sediment and grass—plugging up the water routes was cleared by neighbourhood residents, Abenate noted.
Even the mountains got into the act. A “significant piece” of a mountain came down near the Sunningdale ‘Y’ in a landslide Saturday afternoon. However, the slide was not removed since it did not impact a roadway.
“We will get a (geological) technical engineer to look at it,” Abenante said.
The waters of the Columbia River have all but consumed the city’s boat dock in Gyro Park, as well as the park’s beach area. The river is so high the city had to shut down the dock and the beach, tying off the boat dock, Abenante explained.
“I’ve never seen (the Columbia River) this high,” said the 18-year veteran of the city’s public works crew. “If the river goes up another foot it could have gone down river. It’s up to the top of the pilings.”
The city will be extending the pilings Monday in order to give the dock a further range of travel if waters continue to rise.
And they are. On Friday BC Hydro announced it was increasing discharges from the Keenleyside Dam to manage the refill rate for the Arrow Reservoir. The total increase in discharge was 20,000 cfs (570 m3/s).
When combined with discharges from the Kootenay River, the total flow in the Columbia River in Trail was expected to be approximately 165,000 kcfs (4700 m3/s) on Saturday—the highest Columbia River flow since the late 1990’s.
City crews were joined in the water world work by the Trail Fire Department (TFD) firefighters who helped place sand bags on Columbia Avenue, cleared several storm drains around the city, pumped out basements, and performed a rescue on the river.
“It was just an overturned boat, and nobody was with it,” said TFD Capt. Grant Tyson, noting the boat was later claimed.
In the Casino area mud flows and water poured forth out of the FortisBC right-of-way Saturday morning, running out of the sand bank hills of the mountainside and washing debris out onto Casino Road. Emcom Services road crews had the area cleared that day.
A few hours later Highway 22 near Birchbank Golf and Country Club succumbed to a mudslide and washout, giving highway crews a workout to clear the channel and the remains on the highway Saturday evening.
The city and the regional district opened the provincial emergency centre in the Trail Community Centre on Saturday to help people and advise them on the proceedings taking place throughout Greater Trail.
Water, water everywhere
Heavy rains and rising waters also created complications across the West Kootenay, resulting in one death and evacuation orders being issued by the neighbouring regional district in three affected areas.
The Regional District of Central Kootenay put evacuation orders into place in the Pass Creek and Goose Creek areas north of the Highway 3A junction, as well the Slocan Valley West Road— affecting 30 homes—and Broadwater Road, where a mudslide, north of Robson, impacted access to Deer Park, Syringa Park and Scotties Marina.
The mudslide forced the evacuation of one area residence, while extreme heavy winds knocked down an estimated four dozen trees in the West Lake area of Christina Lake near Grand Forks.
On Saturday a 72-year-old man went to check the water levels outside his Pass Creek home and was found drowned Sunday morning by search and rescue teams from Castlegar and Nelson. Rising waters washed out the bridge to the man’s property on Saturday afternoon. The identity of the body has not yet been confirmed.
“Pass Creek has doubled in capacity as a result of the rains,” said Emcon Services’ division manager, Joe Mottishaw.
Meanwhile a flood watch continues for the Kootenay River that flows into the Columbia River in Trail, according to the B.C. Rivers Forecast Centre.
A release from the centre Friday noted rivers have been responding to rapid snowmelt and wet conditions over the past three weeks as warmer weather reduces the remaining snow pack.
A low pressure system off of Washington brought warm and wet weather across the province on the weekend, but dropped the heaviest rainfall in the West Kootenay region.
As a result, Redfish Creek near Harrop is currently topping out its 50-year high flow rate, with the Slocan River the highest it has been in five years. However, additional rises are expected early this week.
Ferry service was interrupted Sunday at Glade, the Upper Arrow Lake (southbound) and into Harrop as floating debris compromised ferry cables stretching across the water. And with Kootenay Lake at its third-highest level in 39 years, the situation could be repeated this week as the Forecast Centre said inflow levels to lake were still increasing.
Highway 1 was also closed in both directions on the weekend between Three-Valley Gap and Revelstoke because of a mudslide 15 kilometres west of the town, with waits of up to four hours at Galena Bay ferry crossing.