Residents of the Monte Lake area were cleaning up Wednesday after heavy rains triggered debris flows on Tuesday.
The flash flooding comes after the massive White Rock Lake Fire swept through the community last year, leaving the area more vulnerable to landslides.
Wally Green, owner of Heritage Campground in Monte Lake, captured video on Tuesday of the torrent of muddy water rolling downhill through his campground.
Water accumulation on Highway 97 near Monte Lake, BC
“It was probably pouring about 10 inches down the whole hill. It was pretty torrential rain. I’ve never seen it rain that hard,” Green said.
Green’s campground is uphill from Highway 97 and water and debris eventually flooded the highway.
“It was pretty much mud all the way to the halfway line,” Green said.
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Campground resident Jackie Cooke said she was loading her truck when it happened and suddenly ‘all hell broke loose’ and found herself standing in the water as if crossing a stream.
She described seeing her neighbours’ property floating.
“A few of my cats were swept away. One is dead, the other is still missing but I recovered one,” Cooke said.
“It’s something you don’t expect to go through.”
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The intensity of the forecast downpour also surprised Kevin Skrepnek, director of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District Emergency Operations Center.
“We were seeing pretty extreme rain in the forecast, but there was almost a surgical strike about it on this particular stretch. [There was] 20 minutes of really, really heavy rain and a lot of that came as hail as well. I think hail is part of the reason we’ve had issues here, just in terms of clogging culverts and drainages,” Skrepnek said.
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Tuesday’s flash flooding left campground residents and the operator with a major cleanup job. They were using heavy equipment to clean up the mud and debris that had accumulated around the campground.
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The mudslide was just the latest challenge for residents of Monte Lake. Area residents experienced a heartbreaking wildfire season last year.
When the White Rock Lake wildfire scorched Monte Lake last summer, Jackie Cooke was among those who lost their home.
She now lives in a trailer at Heritage Campground and is frustrated cleaning up a debris flow after a forest fire.
“I can’t even say I’m sad. I’m angry because this shouldn’t have happened. If the fire hadn’t happened, if it had been stopped, this bullshit wouldn’t have happened to anyone along this highway,” Cooke said.
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Monte Lake Resort, the campground next to Heritage Campground, also experienced a torrent of water, mud, and rocks.
The owners say they were 90% complete with their post-fire reconstruction when this flood hit.
“It’s obviously very frustrating when you take two steps forward and one step back,” said Monte Lake Resort co-owner Dennis Smith.
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Smith said the area needed more help, including an assessment of future risk.
“We are just looking for support and professionals to come and see what kind of damage has been done up there. [on the burnt hillside] and what we’re up against,” Smith said.
A general report, completed last fall, said the Monte Lake area was at high risk for landslides after the fire, so the regional district is not ruling out the possibility of another similar event in what happened on Tuesday.
“We will work with the province to try to get a more accurate report on that particular area,” Skrepnek said.
“We want to better understand what exactly the issues are here and if there is anything we can recommend to these owners on how they can prepare for the next time.”
No injuries were reported from Tuesday’s flooding.
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