Warning issued for Okanagan Lake residents

Following recent flooding events earlier this month and with the potential for more seasonal flooding in communities surrounding the Okanagan Lake in the coming weeks due to increased snowmelt and forecasted warmer weather, Emergency Management BC asks that residents in the area take precautions to ensure personal safety.

Residents should develop a household plan, put together emergency kits, connect with neighbours and learn about the local government emergency response plan for their area.

Guides on how to prepare are available online: www.gov.bc.ca/preparedbc

Residents are asked to stay away from floodwaters and keep away from shorelines. During periods of high flow, the shorelines may be unstable and more prone to sudden collapse.

Walking through flood waters is dangerous. Just over 15 centimetres (six inches) of fast-moving water can knock over an adult, and this water can contain various forms of contamination such as sewage, fuels or pesticides.

If you must walk in flood waters to evacuate, use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.

Homeowners and tenants in low-lying areas around Okangan Lake at risk of potential flooding should elevate or store furniture away from ground floor levels, clear perimeter drains, eavestroughs and gutters.

Be aware of your local government's emergency plan for flooding, and learn the specific steps you can take to understand and mitigate the risk to your property.

Sandbagging is one of the most effective ways to prevent or reduce flood water damage. Homeowners who are preparing homemade sandbags need to be aware that two people should be part of the sandbagging process. It will take about one hour to fill and place 100 sandbags which will create a 30.5-centimetre by six-metre (one-foot by-20-foot) wall.

Residents should make sure they have enough sand, burlap or plastic bags, shovels and time to properly prepare. The Province provides local governments with sandbags; residents can obtain them from their local government.

Residents are offered the following advice for proper sandbagging:

Fill materials:

* Sand is by far the easiest material for filling and shaping sandbags. Sand becomes heavier when saturated from rain or moisture.

* In emergencies, other materials such as silt, clay, gravel or a mixture of these may be used to fill bags, but none works as well as sand.

* When vehicle access is cut off to the flood site, and you have no other choice, use the back side of the levee or an adjacent field to find whatever material is available to fill sandbags.

Proper filling procedure:

* Always use gloves, and avoid touching your eyes and mouth.

* Filling sandbags is normally a two- to three-person task.

* One member while crouching with feet apart and arms extended places the bottom of the empty bag on the ground.

* The opening of the bag is folded outward about 2.54 centimetres to 3.81 centimetres (one inch to 1.5 inches) to form a collar and held open to allow the second team member to fill with material - approximately one-half or two-thirds full, and then fold them over.

* Do not hurry, Haste can result in undue spillage and additional work.

* The third team member stockpiles or stacks the open sacks.

Proper placement:

* Remove any debris from the areas where bags are to be placed.

* Place the bags lengthwise and parallel to the direction of flow.

* Fill the low spots first before placing bags the full length of the area to be raised.

* Start at approximately 30.5 centimetres (one foot) landward from the river or levee's edge.

* Fold the open end of the bag under the filled portion. The folded end of bag should face upstream.

* Place succeeding bags with the bottom of the bag tightly and partially overlapping the previous bag.

* Offset adjacent rows or layers by one-half bag length to avoid continuous joints.

Working around moving water should be avoided as much as possible. Only work for the purpose of saving lives, protecting critical infrastructure or preventing significant property damage should be considered. Any patrols, assessments or required emergency work should only commence during daylight hours.

Residents should never attempt to drive in flood water. Sixty-one centimetres (two feet) of fast moving water can carry away most vehicles, including SUVs and pick-up trucks. Floodwaters can quickly wash out roads and bridges, so be prepared and plan for an alternative route. Check drivebc.ca for the latest road conditions and Emergency Info BC for up-to-date flood information.

Motorists should consider the following tips when travelling through flood-prone areas:

* If you find yourself on a road that's flooded or marked closed, do not continue. Turn around and use another route. Just a little over 15 centimetres (six inches) of moving water can sweep you off your feet and as little as 61 centimetres (two feet) can carry away most vehicles.

* If you have no choice but to drive into water, drive slowly and cautiously. Watch carefully for signs of a moving current that may impact the safety of the road ahead.

* If your vehicle stalls on a flooded stretch of road, be prepared to abandon it and retreat to higher ground.

* Do not try to retrieve vehicles from flooded areas until it's safe. Wait for the water to recede.

* Pack a vehicle emergency kit for your car, and store an extra pair of comfortable shoes, a waterproof jacket and important medications.

* Watch for traffic personnel and obey flaggers.

Preparing for evacuated pets is also important; pet owners should also take precautions by:

* Making a list of pet-friendly family members and contact numbers for short-term boarding, if necessary. Displaced pet owners can also check with local hotels about their pet policies (these are sometimes lifted in an emergency situation).

* Preparing a pet grab-and-go bag and making sure you have everything you need for your pets for a minimum of three days. Include leashes or carriers, food and food dishes.

* Prepare if you are not at home during an emergency. Provide a trusted friend or neighbour with a key and let them know where your pet grab-and-go bag is located.

* Be in the know - if you use a kennel or day care, check if they have an emergency plan. Stay up to date with your pet's medications, and check with local authorities for information about organizations or resources available during an evacuation.

* Animals can become disoriented, frightened or aggressive during an emergency. Add a few items to your emergency kit to help calm your pet, such as a towel with your scent on it. You may also need thick gloves to help you handle a panicked pet.

If a residence is flooded, the following precautions should be noted upon return home:

Do not return home until local offials advise it is safe to re-enter evacuated areas.

All electrical wiring in buildings that has been partially or fully covered by flood water must be checked by a qualified electrician or electrical inspector before being put into service again. Any loose wires should be considered "live" and are a definite hazard. If water levels were high enough to cover the gas meter, call FortisBC or your local gas provider to check your meter and regulator before using your gas system.

Contact your local health authority about possible food contamination. As a general rule, avoid a health hazard by destroying all food that was submerged in flood waters or is at risk because it was not temperature controlled.

In the event that public water supplies are contaminated, a water notification will be issued. Notifications can include a "boil water notice," a "water quality advisory," or a "do not use notice." A boil water notice is issued when a drinking water health risk is determined. Bring water to a rolling boil for at least one minute, or use an alternate, safe source of water. Use boiled water for:

* Drinking

* Brushing teeth

* Washing fruits and vegetables to be eaten raw

* Preparing food

* Mixing baby formula

* Making ice

Contact your local government for information on specific water notifications.

Use caution when removing building materials and furniture that have become wet with flood water. Extensive mould growth will likely occur. Failure to remove contaminated materials and reduce moisture and humidity can present serious long-term health risks such as respiratory disease and allergic reactions. People with mould allergies or compromised immune systems are most at risk of potential illness.

Learn More:

Flooding factsheet: http://ow.ly/2Pa030btt74

Flood prevention tips: http://www.gov.bc.ca/preparedbc/floods/

Flood Information for Homeowners: http://ow.ly/t4lg30bttjr

Disinfecting water: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthlinkbc-files/disinfecting-drinking-water

Home clean-up hazards: http://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthfiles/hfile20.stm

Sandbagging tips (three languages) and video: http://ow.ly/ugNg30bxql4

Flooding and food safety: http://ow.ly/V2T230bxqq9

Sewage systems & flooding: http://ow.ly/iBDY30bxquM

River Forecast Centre: http://bcrfc.env.gov.bc.ca/

For information on local road closures: https://www.tranbc.ca/southern-interior-flood-recovery-travel-advisories/

Environment Canada Public Weather Alerts for British Columbia: http://ow.ly/IDvd30btqo2

Contact:

Media Relations
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
250 356-8241