Ditch glitch behind icy road havoc in Vernon

A truck rolled over on Highway 97 near Swan Lake Nurseryland Wednesday morning. (Caitlin Clow - Morning Star)

Ice formed across four lanes of Highway 97 below the Castle at Swan Lake Wednesday morning causing multiple accidents. Water pooled on the road while the hotel was draining its pool, but management said fault shouldn’t fall on the hotel.

It was originally reported that a water main had broken causing the flooding, but the Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) confirmed that information was incorrect. Shortly after 10:30 a.m., firefighters reported the flood was caused by a local hotel draining its pool.

But, the Castle claims the ditches in front of the building were so full they failed to catch and properly divert the draining water.

“We were winterizing our pool, like we do every year, a little earlier actually because it’s a little colder,” Castle manager Jacqueline Brooks said.

“The catchment basin failed and the water, instead of doing what it should and run down the ditch and through the culvert, ran down the road and onto the highway.

“There was no ditch for it to run in, this ditch is solid.”

By the time they realized what had happened, staff were horrified.

“Thank God no one was seriously hurt,” said Brooks, who applauds emergency response and particularly the road maintenance crews who were quick to attend and address the icy situation.

The RDNO said RCMP is investigating the cause of the water on the road.

“There is no criminal element to the rest, therefore we will not be investigating it in terms of criminal charges,” RCMP Const. Jocelyn Noseworthy said.

And the RDNO says it has no role in this matter.

“The Ministry of Transportation maintains those ditches,” said Ashley Gregerson, RDNO communications officer. “We have nothing to do with roads.”

Meanwhile, Brooks is eager to see the blocked ditches dug out.

“In my five years, there has never been one bit of maintenance on these ditches,” she said.

The Ministry confirms that the ditches are in fact its responsibility but says that there are no ditches at that location.

“There is no ditch at this location, and a ditch is not required based on the needs of our infrastructure,” the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure states.

“The ministry does not design or maintain our ditches to accept water from private businesses, nor are private businesses permitted to drain water onto our infrastructure.”

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reminded drivers Wednesday morning that winter driving conditions are upon us.

“Drivers need to remember that roads are often icy this time of the year” said Const. Jocelyn Noseworthy. “RCMP are asking motorists to drive to conditions, and make sure your vehicle is winter-ready.”

The ministry encourages anyone that notices road or roadside conditions requiring attention to contact the local maintenance contractor, in this case AIM Roads, at 1-866-222-4204.

READ MORE: Decade-old castle unveiled

READ MORE: Lumby grandma proves anyone can be a firefighter

READ MORE: Fundraiser set up for family of Vernon man killed in car accident

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