After water levels reached a high point on Sunday night (May 12), flood threats in the Pemberton Valley subsided early this week. However, local officials are continuing to monitor areas of concern as the spring thaw carries on.
The B.C. River Forecast Centre issued a Flood Watch for the Birkenhead River on Monday morning (May 13) after water began creeping onto Highway 99 near the Continental Pole yard in the Grandmother Slough area, near the western end of the Lillooet Lake Road.
However, the Flood Watch was rescinded Tuesday (May 14) after temperatures cooled and the amount of rain that fell Monday was less than forecasted.
“We’re through the worst of it — for now,” said Ryan Wainwright, director of the Emergency Operations Centre for the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, on Tuesday.
“We’re looking at probably a four- or five-day break with the weather, then there’s some more precipitation expected. We’ll stand by and just be ready to deal with whatever happens.”
The Pemberton Valley Dyking District has been leading work on reinforcing berms near the Continental Pole site, and Wainwright said that project concluded Tuesday to specifications. However, officials working in the area faced some nervous moments Sunday as the water began to rise.
“Sunday was a really touch-and-go day,” said Wainwright. “We had to pull equipment off the main project to make sure that the work area stayed safe, because we were getting water over top of the protection berm.”
Forecasts for Monday were predicting up to 25 millimetres of rain in the upper watershed. Although an “intense” storm passed through in the afternoon, the total precipitation was thankfully less than expected, said Wainwright. He noted that the freezing level in the alpine has dropped, which should slow the snow melt at higher elevations for the next few days.
Officials with the Lil’wat Nation are also keeping a close eye on water levels to ensure that residents in the Grandmother Slough area aren’t endangered by the river.
David Dorrans, the Mount Currie Band’s director of land, resources and infrastructure, said water began to seep on to some reserve properties as well as water hit the high mark Sunday, but no homes were seriously affected.
“We haven’t evacuated anyone yet, but we’re keeping in touch with the residents that we’re most concerned about and hoping that the river stays where it is or drops,” he said.
Dorrans said a request has been put in to Emergency Management B.C. for access to a sandbagging machine as in years past, even though the flood threat appears to be reduced in the short term.
“The immediate concern has reduced a little bit, but if we get more warm weather or more precipitation, we’d be right back up to a higher alert, so we’re going to continue with getting the sandbags in just in case,” said Dorrans, noting that volunteers may be needed to help with the protection efforts as sandbagging takes place.
Water also came up quickly on Pemberton Creek Saturday (May 11) and although it did not pass over the dyke, it managed to come through an open flap gate to a and put some property in the Village of Pemberton at risk. Pemberton Fire Rescue crews acted quickly and were able to cut off the water flow.
High Stream Flow Advisories issued for all Sea to Sky rivers were also rescinded Tuesday. However, the flood threat on the Birkenhead is likely to last into June, so residents are being urged to prepare accordingly.
Wainwright also advised individuals to be mindful of the water levels when near the swelling rivers.
“The water’s still high and if people are going to be around the riverbanks … be extremely cautious,” he said.
Anyone with spring flooding concerns or requiring assistance may contact Wainwright at 604-698-6442.