Risk from Meager landslide recedes, for now 

Campers describe a 'wall of water' coming towards them

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"In our minds, we thought the mountainside had collapsed across from the campsite and nailed the river," Smith said. "We had no idea of the scale of what had actually happened."

What they escaped was a destructive landslide that measured up to 40 million cubic metres, second in volume only to the Hope Slide, a 1965 slide that, at 46 million cubic metres, has been recorded as the biggest in Canadian history.

The landslide began when a glacier broke off from the top of Mount Meager and ran all the way down Capricorn Creek, picking up material as it flowed across Meager Creek, creating a natural dam. As the material continued to flow it partially blocked the Lillooet River. Three million cubic metres of water backed up behind the dam, stirring fears of flooding in the Pemberton Valley.

About 1,500 residents in the Meadows and Mount Currie were ordered to leave their homes on Friday night in anticipation of the Lillooet River flooding.

Those fears were eased on Saturday morning as the water carved a 25-40 metre incision in the dam and began to flow out naturally. Water rose to about 3.7 metres in the Lillooet River but there were no significant flooding issues.

Rick Guthrie, a regional geomorphologist with B.C.'s Ministry of Environment, said the risk has been alleviated for Pemberton residents for now but the slopes around the Meager complex are still unstable.

"At this point, people are not facing a considerable risk," he said. "We are monitoring it. The Pemberton Valley is about 60 kilometres downstream, it would take something substantial to create a problem. What we're looking at really is what the long-term effects are in terms of sediment transport.

"We are also looking in Capricorn Creek for other slides that may be coming down again, but they will be considerably smaller."

The lifting of the evacuation order came as welcome news for Connie Sobchak, a lifelong resident of the Pemberton Meadows. She was attending a family reunion at the home of her parents Ruth and Elmer Hellevang, also Meadows residents, when the call to evacuate came at midnight Friday.

Sobchak and her parents chose to stay, fearful of the risk that the landslide posed but confident that they would be safe. They stayed through a rash of forest fires in the summer of 2009.

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