As the old song goes, what a difference a day makes…
While properties in the Salmon Valley remain in the path of potential flooding, the focus is beginning to shift elsewhere.
The peak stream flow levels of the Salmon River are changing rapidly, just as quickly as the surge that flooded residents overnight on May 9 and 10. That surge reached 77.7 cubic metres per second.
As of Tuesday, May 15, a peak level of 80 cubic metres per second was being forecast for Wednesday or Thursday of next week. It would have been even higher and possibly more devastating than the flooding caused on May 10, thanks to rapidly melting snowpacks.
However, as of Wednesday, May 16, things had changed.
Derek Sutherland, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District’s team leader with protective services, says the model has been modified somewhat to forecast a peak by Friday of next week of 73.5 cubic metres per second for the river, down four cubic metres from the May 10 surge.
“It’s still over the 100-year flood mark,” he cautions, explaining that the 100-year mark is 68.6 cubic metres per second.
He adds that only six cubic metres separate the 50- and 100-year record levels.
Before and since the May 10 flooding of the Salmon River Valley and properties along Salmon River Road – and elsewhere, much work has been done by residents and others.
On Tuesday of this week, provincial wildfire crews, in the absence of wildfires, were busy working on DeMille’s Farm Market next to the Salmon River Bridge and the Trans-Canada Highway, as well as properties along Salmon River Road.
A group of 17, they’re helping stressed and exhausted residents with sandbagging and preparation for further potential flooding.
He says the crews, who are staying in a hotel, are here to work 10 hours a day for seven days.
“These guys are pros. They’re experts in sandbagging, fit young men and women. They can get a lot done in a short amount of time.”
Combined with what’s already been done, Sutherland says things are starting to look good.
“We feel like we’re getting Salmon River Road in good shape; we have a plan for it, we’re implementing that plan, and the forecast is cooperating.”
Sutherland adds that the forecast can change; while minimal amounts of rain aren’t a concern, a heavy rainfall could push up the river levels.
He said the work is starting to focus on recovering the Salmon River as well as responding to the 2018 Shuswap Lake freshet.
With larger than normal snowpacks to melt, the focus will be on protecting properties and critical infrastructure near the lake.
Salmon Arm draws most of its water from the lake, so protecting the water treatment plant at Canoe Beach from flooding, for instance, will be a priority.
If you require support, including sand and sandbags, contact the Shuswap Emergency Program at 250-832-2424.