BC Wildfire crews empty sandbags as evacuation orders are rescinded for Grand Forks’ downtown. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)

UPDATED: Majority of flood evacuees in Kootenay-Boundary allowed to return home

Officials hope to have all 3,000 people back in their homes by Monday night

Much needed good news kept on coming to the flood-ravaged Kootenay-Boundary region on Sunday as most of the area’s evacuees got word that they could return home.

As of 9:30 p.m., 2,000 were no longer under evacuation order in Grand Forks, Christina Lake and the surrounding areas.

Among the returning evacuees were around 750 in Grand Forks itself.

The first wave of residents were allowed to return to the city’s downtown by mid-morning Sunday.

“They were some of the ones that were clearly unaffected by flood waters,” emergency operations centre information officer Frances Maika said.

“Our goal is to, by the end of the day tomorrow (May 21) to have the majority of people who have been on evacuation order back in their homes or businesses. That’s most of those 3,000.”

Just before 5 p.m. Sunday, another 415 properties at Christina Lake, 20 kilometres east of Grand Forks, had their evacuation orders rescinded.

At around 9:30 p.m., 98 properties South Ruckle, one of the hardest hit neighbourhoods in Grand Forks, as well as 42 homes east of the Grandby and Kettle rivers were downgraded to evacuation alerts.

As hundreds of people people prepared to return to their homes, officials warned them that they were still on evacuation alert and should remain ready to leave again.

About 1,000 people remain under evacuation order as of late Sunday night.

Dan Derby, the head of the emergency operations centre, said that the goal was to have Grand Forks’ downtown “open for business” come Tuesday morning.

Derby said that the forecast was improving much faster than was anticipated.

Officials had braced for a peak to flood levels on Saturday night that never materialized, he added.

“The perfect storm… didn’t align so we didn’t get hit as hard the second time,” said Derby.

“The best information said we were going to get hammered a second time and we were very lucky that didn’t happen.”

River levels hit an all-time high of 22.6 feet (6.9 metres) at the ferry gauge south of Midway this week, Derby said, but had dropped to 18 feet (5.5 metres) by Sunday afternoon.

In a normal year, Derby added, 18 feet would be considered just half a foot below a minor flood and be cause for concern.

“We’re cheering about a river level that in a different year we would be very worried,” he said.

“The level of the river was a two feet higher than the flood of record in 1948.”

From response to recovery

The Canadian Armed Forces, which had been stationed in Grand Forks since midweek, pulled out on Sunday morning.

They were replaced by a few dozen BC Wildfire staff and contract firefighters who got to work emptying sandbags along Market Street, the main downtown corridor.

Officials say that although the sandbags themselves rot too quickly to be re-used, the sand will won’t be sent to the landfill.

As residents got wind of the recovery efforts, they came out in droves to take stock of what remained.

“Thank you for all you do!” yelled one man.

“First thing’s first, thank you for you every kindness, your physical and emotional strength. This just reminds us why we live where we live,” read a sign on the side of one previously-flooded building.

VIDEO: As floodwaters recede, crews assess the damage to Grand Forks’ downtown

But it’s not all good news.

Many in downtown, like Jogas Espresso Cafe owner Roger Soviskov, are looking at $250,000 or more in damage.

“Thankfully, I have insurance,” Soviskov said.

Others, like those living in Ruckle, one of Grand Forks’ worst-hit neighbourhoods, might not be able to get back into their waterlogged homes anytime soon.

“We’re going to have some homes where it’s not safe to reenter,” said Maika.

“There will be some areas that remain on evacuation order. We’re not at the point right now to anticipate what that will look like because we’re still doing the assessments.”

A firefighter assesses how safe a previously-flooded building is in downtown Grand Forks Saturday. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)

Nearly 50 trained rapid damage assessors had begun to take stock of the damage to nearly 1,400 homes and businesses in the area on Saturday afternoon.

“We’re trying to complete those assessments and have those teams go to all those structures within the evacuation order area by the end of day tomorrow.”

The system works by distributing red, yellow or green placards – for unsafe, restricted use, and – to the properties.

So far, 582 properties have been assessed, although officials couldn’t confirm how many were handed red placards.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Barriere’s Amazing Race was resounding success

‘That’s what it’s about, bringing the community together, you know’

Chinook Cove ladies’ golf’s final swings of the season

The season concluded with a championship and a hole-in-one

BC Ag Expo welcomes the Canadian Cashmere Producers Association

Fleece judging will take place September 23

Al Fortin is running for council in Barriere

Question: What made you want to run for councillor again? A: “Actually… Continue reading

Barriere residents walked, ran and rode for its annual Terry Fox Run

‘Well Terry Fox is a Canadian hero. He’s a hero to our family’

Fashion Fridays: Rock some animal print

Kim XO, lets you in on the latest fall fashion trends on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Permit to give B.C. deer birth control on hold until consultation with First Nations

Complexity of consultation will depend on level of First Nations support for the project

Feds launching review of oil tanker traffic in bid to renew pipeline approval

The feds have ordered the National Energy Board to bring recommendations on whether pipeline expansion should proceed

Horvat leads Canucks to 4-3 shootout victory over Kings

Vancouver dumps L.A. in NHL pre-season contest

Update: Search called off for missing plane between Edmonton and Chilliwack

Search efforts were concentrated along the Highway 5 corridor between Valemount and Kamloops

Why Whistler for ski jumping in 2026? Calgary proposal gets pushback

Calgary 2026 proposes re-using the 2010 ski jumping venue Whistler for that sport and nordic

Despite progress, threat of 232 tariffs dominates NAFTA negotiations

Any deal is seen to require congressional approval before Dec. 1 to survive new Mexican government

VIDEO: Hundreds line highway as family brings home body of B.C. teen

Northern B.C. showed their support by lining Hwy 16 as Jessica Patrick’s body returned to Smithers.

B.C. MP Todd Doherty receives award for saving man who collapsed on a plane

Conservative MP was flying from Vancouver to Prince George, B.C., in June last year

Most Read