Merritt, B.C., residents in evacuation zones ordered to leave ahead of possible flooding

The City of Merritt is urging everyone under an evacuation order to leave the area by 3 p.m. Sunday as rain and snowmelt prompt river levels to rise.

In a statement, the city says anyone in the city south of Nicola Avenue - which has been under an evacuation order since Nov. 15 - should leave by 3 p.m.

The city has been allowing some residents in the area subject to the evacuation order to access their properties between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily as part of its recovery plan.

The order remains in place, however, and the city says it will not be sending emergency response personnel to conduct door-to-door notifications on Sunday. It also says it's suspending day access to the affected areas until further notice.

The latest warning for the hard-hit city comes as a result of consultation with the B.C. River Forecast Centre, which has observed a rise in the Coldwater River at the Brookmere gauge, according to the city.

"This provides an approximately an eight-hour lead time until there is a corresponding rise at Merritt," the city's statement reads.

"The current trajectory of the water levels indicates that flooding in Merritt is a possibility."

The entire city was ordered to evacuate earlier this month as a historic rainstorm and swelling rivers inundated the city and rendered its wastewater treatment plant inoperable.

On Sunday, the city said it has been working to protect critical infrastructure, including the wastewater treatment plant and sanitary manholes.

"Flood protection measures are also being placed at strategic locations and engineers continue to assess the river banks."

Those living north of Nicola Avenue are on evacuation alert, and should be prepared to leave on short notice, the city said.

“Despite an incredible effort by city crews to reinforce and restore the banks of the Coldwater River, our community is still vulnerable to flooding," said Merritt Mayor Linda Brown in the statement.

"The river is rising and we are monitoring our river banks and are prepared to do what is necessary to keep our citizens safe.”  

Earlier in the day, the Thompson Nicola Regional District issued an evacuation order for 56 properties to the west of the City of Merritt. The district warned that rising waters posed a threat to a bridge in the affected area.