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Flood warning ended for Birkenhead River

River forecast centre drops flood advisory with water levels dropping

There’s good news for water logged property owners in Mount Currie and those who live close to the Birkenhead River.

Dave Dorrans, Mount Currie’s director of lands, rescources and public infrastructure, reported that the river forecast centre has ended the flood advisory for the Birkenhead.

“The waters do seem to be coming down a bit,” said Dorrans.

Despite the drop in the high water, Dorrans said a sandbagging effort that started Monday will continue to help protect three homes that were affected in the last flood event. In addition to threatening homes, the high water spilled onto Highway 99 and filled many ditches near the river. The water wasn’t high enough to lead to any evacuations.

“We brought in a sandbagging machine and we will be doing some localized sandbagging,” said Dorran.

Whether those sandbags are really needed or not will depend on how much rain we get in the next few days and how warm temperatures get, Dorran said. The forecast is calling for cool temperatures and a few showers. The swollen rivers aren’t expected to rise as a result of the weather trend in the next few days.

With most rivers still running at or near capacity, those working or playing around watercourses in the Sea to Sky area are advised to be cautious. The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District is posting updates to its Twitter account (@SLRD_Emergency).

There is no flood threat reported in Whistler and the Squamish, Mamquam, Cheakamus and Cheekye Rivers are all filled with more water than usual but there’s no immediate threat of flooding in Squamish.

High water conditions are expected to persist for the next two or three weeks as the spring freshet continues. People are urged to use caution when working or being active around river channels as water can come up quickly.

Residents and businesses are also reminded to have a flood preparedness plan in place and to take measures to shore up flood protection efforts. For more information on how to prepare for floods, visit www.embc.gov.bc.ca/em/floods/preparedness.html or drop by the SLRD office to pick up a Flood Preparedness brochure.

People with concerns related to spring flooding are asked to contact Ryan Wainwright, SLRD Emergency Operations Centre Director, at (604) 698-6442 or by email at rwainwright@slrd.bc.ca.

The Squamish Lillooet Regional District will continue to monitor conditions closely and will provide further updates at www.slrd.bc.ca if required. The SLRD Emergency Program is also on twitter: @SLRD_Emergency.

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Limited active flooding has now been reported in Mount Currie.

The update comes from Ryan Wainwright, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District Emergency Program Manager. He said no evacuations have taken place but some vulnerable residents have reportedly left their low-lying properties.

According to Wainwright, a critical night lies ahead for those living near the Birkenhead River. He said the period through to Tuesday morning is a critical time.

“We’re expecting 25 ml (of rain) in the upper watershed and 10 to 20 ml in the valley bottom,” Wainwright said by phone from Pemberton.

“Structural work on the emergency dike is almost done and there’s just a little more work to be done to get it exactly where the engineers want it,” Wainwright said of efforts to keep the Birkenhead from topping its banks.

“Our first priority is ensuring that residents are safe,” said Susie Gimse, Electoral Area C Director. “SLRD staff, our partner organizations and contractors have all been working around the clock to make sure the dyke holds.”

In Squamish, both the Mamquam and Squamish Rivers are carrying more water than usual but water levels haven’t reached critical heights. The Cheakamus river is also swollen but not to a critical level.

Shirley Lewis, a Squamish Nation resident who lives at Cheekye just below the confluence of the Cheakamus and the Cheekye River said she and her neighbours are watching the water levels. Her neighbourhood made up of 23 homes is one of the most vulnerable in the Squamish area when water starts to rise. She said there is no immediate threat but the water in the rivers near her home is rising.

According to engineer Frank Baumann, Lewis and her neighbours have no flood protection.

-update by John French

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The BC River Forecast Centre has issued a flood watch warning for several rivers in the Sea to Sky area.

Included in the streamflow advisory are the Birkenhead River, the Lillooet River and its tributaries, the Squamish River, and tributary creeks throughout the corridor.

Snowmelt has been rapid over the past week as a result of unseasonably high temperatures creating high flow in rivers.

As well river levels have surged over the past 24 hours in response to heavy rainfall overnight. Observed precipitation at local fire weather stations ranged from 15‐45 mm.

Additional rainfall is expected Monday, with amounts in the range of 15‐50 mm expected. Coastal areas (e.g. Squamish) are expected to receive higher rainfall amounts compared with more inland areas (e.g. Pemberton). Rapid additional rises are expected throughout Monday, with peak river levels expected late‐Monday and into Tuesday.

Flows in the Squamish, Lillooet and tributary rivers are expected to reach between two‐year and 10‐year return period levels.

- More to come -

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People relaxing near the water need to be vigilant today as river and lake waters swell due to recent rain, and warm weather last week.

"If you are recreating near any rivers be really careful as they are much more dangerous than they look, " said Ryan Wainwright, SLRD Emergency Program Manager, Sunday.

The SLRD, the Lil’wat Nation and the Pemberton Valley Diking District have been working hard to mitigate flooding concerns — with personnel walking the at-risk area Saturday night every hour until daylight to keep an eye on the situation.

Wainwright hopes that the work being done to raise the berm along the Birkenhead River near Mt. Currie where the waters are most at risk of breaching the bank will be completed by the end of the day (Sunday).

But the danger won't be over, he said. "We are ready to jump into action if need be.

"We are holding on tooth and nail. We saw a dramatic rise in the level of the water yesterday."

More rain is expected today and Monday with up to nine milimetres expected by tomorrow evening.

More information is available from the SLRD office or can be found at www.embc.gov.bc.ca/em/floods/preparedness.html.

People with concerns, or those requiring access to sandbags, are asked to contact Ryan Wainwright, SLRD Emergency Program Manager, at (604) 698-6442 or by email at rwainwright@slrd.bc.ca. The SLRD will continue to post updates on the SLRD website: www.slrd.bc.ca. The SLRD Emergency Program is also on Twitter: @SLRD_Emergency.

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Rainfall on Saturday night, May 11, and into Sunday, May 12, will likely determine whether the Birkenhead River, a major tributary of the Lillooet River north of Pemberton, floods this year.

Homes and the Sea to Sky Highway could see water if the river breaks its banks.

Ten to 15 millimetres of rain is forecast to fall overnight Saturday with a further 25 millimetres on Sunday. Emergency program manager for the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, Ryan Wainwright, says this will combine with Saturday being another warm day, encouraging the high snowmelt seen for the past eight days.

“We’re developing a little concern about Saturday night. We’re continuing to work and get our (berm) structure built here; the water remains quite high behind it,” Wainwright said. “We’re going to be watching it very closely, for now we’re staying ahead of it.”

The river is up 0.6 of a metre, which is not a problem in itself.

“It’s not about how much water is in the river this year. A year ago 0.6 wouldn’t have even raised an eyebrow,” Wainwright said. “It’s down to what’s happening on the river bottom; because of landslides and accumulation of material on the bottom of the river, through erosion and stuff, we’ve actually lost half a metre (of space to take water). The structures we had last year would have been fine, but because this year the river bottom is higher we need to have higher protection.”

On Friday afternoon, Wainwright was told by the BC Rivers Forecast Centre flood conditions were not expected but river levels were expected to rise rapidly.

He wants the public to know that while the SLRD, the Lil’wat Nation and the Pemberton Valley Diking District have been working hard to mitigate flooding concerns “the threat has not passed.” Residents in the area are asked to be aware of the situation and to think through personal emergency preparedness.

“There’s no water flowing overland right now but we’re still really dependent on the weather over the weekend,” he said.

One day’s work to clear debris in the river was carried out in April with input from local government and federal and provincial authorities. When asked if the current situation means that more work is needed, Wainwright said there are optimistic and pessimistic ways to look at it.

“More work does need to be done, but we can look at the work that got done two or three weeks ago in our multi-stakeholder project and that has contributed to giving us enough time. The work that has been down by Lil’wat First Nation and the diking district over the last couple years has done a lot to ensure that the other problem areas are not as big a problem yet this year,” he said.

More information is available from the SLRD office or can be found at www.embc.gov.bc.ca/em/floods/preparedness.html.

People with concerns, or those requiring access to sandbags, are asked to contact Ryan Wainwright, SLRD Emergency Program Manager, at (604) 698-6442 or by email at rwainwright@slrd.bc.ca. The SLRD will continue to post updates on the SLRD website: www.slrd.bc.ca. The SLRD Emergency Program is also on Twitter: @SLRD_Emergency.




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