Bulkley Valley residents are being warned to stay clear of rising waterways as the Town of Smithers starts distributing sandbags for residents in low-lying areas.
The B.C. River Forecast Centre yesterday issued a flood watch warning for the Bulkley River, which is rising by about 20cm per day in the Smithers area.
It said the flood conditions were caused by unseasonably warm weather melting snowpack.
The forecast predicts the river could reach flood levels today or Thursday and it is expected to keep rising until the weekend.
Homes in low-lying areas such as Ebenezer Flats and the area at the end of Main Street are at greater risk of flooding.
Smithers Fire Rescue fire chief Keith Stecko said the Town of Smithers was distributing sandbag materials to residents at the end of Main Street as a precautionary measure.
We have a low-lying area at the end of Main Street that is significantly … at risk,” said Stecko.
“Generally during flood-time we’re in contact with those residents.
“As a precaution the Town of Smithers will be laying out sand-bags and sand for the residents, if they so choose then they can begin to sandbag their residence.”
He urged the public to stay away from local waterways and riverbanks, which could be unstable due to saturation and fast-flowing water.
“The Town of Smithers wants to make it clear to our public to stay well away from the rivers, it’s very dangerous right now,” he said.
“It may be going on for several days, we’re not sure based on what the provincial assessments are so the best thing to do is stay away from the rivers to make sure that our public is safe.”
The River Forecast Centre is also warning people in low-lying areas to move livestock and other possessions of value to higher terrain if possible.
Stecko said the municipality was monitoring the water levels in close contact with the B.C. government.
“This is a live, active moving event so as things change we will either upgrade or downgrade the situation based on what we’re seeing,” he said.
Town of Smithers mayor Taylor Bachrach, councillor Gladys Atrill, chief administrative officer Deborah Sargent and fire chief Stecko were at an emergency response workshop in Burns Lake when the flood watch was announced yesterday.
“Obviously it was on everyone’s mind because while we were in the meeting we received the flood watch bulletin from the River Forecast Centre,” said Bacrach.
“There was a response as people in the room whose communities were close to the Bulkley River took the initial steps to respond to a potential emergency.”
Telkwa Fire Rescue fire chief Randy Cunningham said the section of river near his community was being monitored.
He said flood mitigation works completed after past floods were helping to keep Telkwa dry.
“We’re just monitoring the situation and we will see if the river settles down a little bit and if the river keeps coming up, we will see how it goes in the next day or so,” he said.
“We’re just basically at Mother Nature’s beckon call so we will just see what happens here.”
He added the amount of snowpack today was only slightly above normal at 108 per cent, compared with 270 per cent when a major flood happened in 2007.
For flood status and water level updates visit the B.C. River Forecast Centre at http://bcrfc.env.gov.bc.ca/warnings/index.htm.