Merritt resident Patricia Anderson, her three children, three cats and a lizard hit the road early Monday morning when all of Merritt was forced to evacuate after heavy rainfall and surging floodwaters from the Coldwater River.
"I just feel completely nuts. It has been raining for like two days straight. There is water everywhere. Literally everywhere. My son’s high school is flooded. The road that we take him to get to school is all flooded. You cannot drive. I saw two floating cars, and a truck going into a sinkhole.”
Anderson says she had a plan in place and was out of her home within 10 minutes of the order. She says some neighbours have chosen not to leave.
"We saw our neighbours, one who packed up a camper. We had evacuated people coming and parking their cars on our street. They were all driving off. I don’t think our neighbours are all leaving though. Some of them are staying behind they don’t want to leave their houses," she says.
Those on evacuation orders are urged to either come to the Emergency Support Services Reception Centre at Parkinson Recreation Centre in Kelowna or 1655 Island Parkway in Kamloops.
ESS manager Mel Caprarie says he anticipates hundreds will make their way to Kelowna.
“Our role is to give them accommodations. We put them in a hotel room and feed them for 72 hours. If they need clothing or other things we will take care of that as well. It is a stressful situation and mentally you try to calm them all down and get them organized.”
Anderson says she moved to Merritt one year ago and never imaged her year would be full of extreme weather events.
"We got to Merritt and had to start dealing with fire evacuations, and now flooding evacuations. We didn’t expect it to flood.”
At this time it is unknown how many houses have been impacted.
The City of Merritt says it set up manned barricades at all entrances to the community on Monday afternoon to secure the city. Nobody is being allowed to access their homes at this point.
The city's wastewater system has failed and drinking water has been contaminated by flood waters.
Lydell McLeod was one of several residents who visited an elevated vantage point near Merritt Golf and Country Club shortly after the evacuation order was made. He was trying to see whether his father’s home in Riverside Mobile Home Park was still standing. He doesn’t think it is.
“We think it’s gone,” he tells Castanet. “With the power of the current right beside his house, it’s gone.”
McLeod estimates as many as 30 or 40 homes in the trailer park might have suffered a similar fate, not to mention other mobile homes elsewhere in low-lying parts of Merritt.
“A lot of people are going to have no trailers to live in, by the looks of it,” he says.
Despite easing floodwaters, evacuees from Merritt are being told their city will likely remain empty for more than a week.
In an update posted to social media on Tuesday morning, the City of Merritt provided residents an updated timeline.
“We anticipate this evacuation order will remain in place for likely more than a week,” the update stated. “Although the floodwaters have rescinded, there is still significant danger and damage that is being caused by the flooding.”
With a file from Tim Petruk