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Flooding prompts state of local emergency in Cache Creek

One property has been placed on evacuation order

Flooding prompted the Village of Cache Creek to declare a State of Local Emergency on Sunday (April 30), after a sudden rise in temperature in the Southern Interior led to faster snowmelt rates and caused Cache Creek to overflow at the Quartz Road culvert on April 29, leading to minor flooding in the downtown area.

On the evening of May 1 the creek once again overflowed at the Quartz Road culvert, more severely than on April 29, causing major flooding on Highways 1 and 97. A steady rain in the area all day that had raised water levels and caused more snow melt in higher elevations that feed into the Cache Creek system.

“It wasn’t expected at all,” says Cache Creek mayor John Ranta of the sudden dramatic rise of the creek on April 29. “The hot temperatures caught us a little bit by surprise. But the overflow at Quartz Road was anticipated by administration and public works, and they had gabions in place before the culvert overflowed, which kept water in one channel.”

The village has issued an evacuation order for one property on the Trans-Canada Highway east of town which borders Cache Creek. As of May 2, no other properties were under evacuation order or alert, and Cache Creek CAO Damian Couture notes that residents have been doing a phenomenal job over the years to mitigate disaster.

“The numbers we’re seeing [this year] are very similar to 2020, which was a mess, so it shows that people are adapting and understanding the situation and doing what needs to be done. We’re seeing that steps are being taken [to mitigate flooding], because residents are realizing this isn’t a one-time thing anymore.”

The village has made sand and bags available for residents to fill and take at no cost. Supplies are at the former recycling depot site near the post office, in the Cache Creek Library parking lot, and on Winchester Road. Residents should bring their own shovel, and are asked to leave the sand and bags at the fire hall for village protective works.

This is the fifth year since 2015 that Cache Creek has dealt with flooding in the creek, the Bonaparte River, or both. In 2015 an unusually heavy rainfall prompted flooding that caused millions of dollars in damage, while in 2017, 2018, and 2020 the village endured flooding during the spring freshet. The 2017 flood also took the life of Cache Creek fire chief Clayton Cassidy, who was swept away by floodwater while inspecting a bridge over the creek.

Couture says that past experience with flooding has made the village proactive when freshet season starts. Staff had already ordered Hesco barriers — also known as gabions — which the village has used in two other years, and on April 27 made the call to close Quartz Road between Highway 1 and Stage Road and put the Hesco barriers in place.

“It’s a pretty big step as they require a lot of clean-up afterward. And we changed the set-up of the barriers outside the fire hall to safeguard it. We’ve learned some lessons, so we’ll have much less recovery.”

Another lesson learned stems from Cassidy’s death in 2017. After that, the village implemented a “two person” rule, to ensure that no one was out alone in a potentially hazardous situation.

“We have that rule anytime we’re doing anything, and we encourage others to do the same.” Couture adds that this is crucial when it comes to flooding, and notes that he saw some people getting far too close to the creek on Saturday evening when it was overflowing.

“The key messaging we’re trying to communicate to people is to stay away from the water. People see how far away from the water we are, and think it’s crazy, but we’ve seen how horrible it is and what can happen.

“That first night we had a lot of issues with people going right up to the side of the waterway, and it’s just not safe. People want to see it and take pictures and videos, I get it, but the biggest thing is be safe while you’re doing it. Be safe, be far away, don’t go near the water by yourself. Things can be replaced, but people can’t.”

Ranta says that Cache Creek council needs to address a permanent fix for Quartz Road. “We need either a larger culvert or a bridge, so we don’t wind up having this situation occurring on a regular basis. It’s been going on from 2015 to the present, and we don’t want to see it keep happening. Over the next few months we have to come up with a permanent solution.”

Couture says that the previous council had looked at a very high-level report for solutions to the flooding at the two culverts the village is responsible for, at Quartz Road and beside the fire hall. The Ministry of Transportation is responsible for the third culvert on Cache Creek, at Highway 97 by the Dairy Queen.

“Quartz Road had the biggest price tag, for a bridge,” notes Couture. “We’d like to see no culverts, and instead have spans or arches. We hope in the near future to have a path forward and get tangible answers for that corridor.”

Ranta says he is modestly concerned about the flood situation as freshet continues, but remains optimistic.

“We’re not seeing significant rainfall predicted in the next few days, and with the amount of water coming down Cache Creek right now I can’t see that continuing over the long run.”

After a relatively cool April, temperatures increased dramatically throughout the region at the end of the month. On April 29, the Cache Creek area hit 31.2 C, the highest temperature ever recorded there on that date (the previous April 29 high was 28.9 C, set in 1957). Environment Canada is forecasting that temperatures in the area through the early part of the week of May 1 will be in the region of 25 C to 30 C, well above the average seasonal high of 19 C.

Nineteen B.C. communities hit new high temperatures for April 29, including Clinton (24.5 C; previous high of 21.1 C set in 1979), Kamloops (31.6 C), Lytton (30.7 C), and Merritt (29 C).

The River Forecast Centre has issued a flood watch for the Lower Thompson area due to the increase in temperatures. In an updated bulletin on Sunday morning (April 30) it said that the areas of concern included Skeetchestn, Cache Creek and the surrounding area, Deadman River, Criss Creek, and the Bonaparte River.