VIDEO: Volunteers pack thousands of sandbags as Grand Forks battles flooding

The impacts of this flood are expected to echo for years, the RDKB said Friday.

Homes in the Ruckle neighbourhood of Grand Forks are virtually underwater after a dike failure overnight on Thursday, and more homes in the Almond Gardens area RDKB Area D had been evacuated Friday. Firefighters and search and rescue teams are actively working to get people out of their homes, and about 30 rescues had been done by midday Friday.

Water levels rose quickly on Thursday, peaking in the downtown area overnight. Many residents in the Ruckle and South Ruckle areas (near Second Street in the Industrial area, not far from downtown Grand Forks) put out calls for help sandbagging on Facebook late Thursday night as the water started to rise around their properties.

According to the RDKB Friday, the dike failed overnight. In addition to the impact on residents, the dike failure also caused issues for the City of Grand Forks substation, and portion of downtown Grand Forks was without power until roughly 2 p.m. Friday.

In response to questions, Chris Marsh, Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) director, said the situation in the Boundary right now could be categorized as “catastrophic.”

“The impacts from this event will be long-lasting. We are talking years and years and millions of dollars,” he said.

Firefighters were on scene in the neighbourhood Friday afternoon. At least one couple required a water rescue after driving into the flooded street.

Firefighters took a canoe out to the car, where residents were pulled out and brought back safely. Several other residents were witnessed boating out to properties to retrieve belongings.

Marsh said there have been no reports of injuries to date.

“We have had about 30 active rescues by search and rescue groups and support from fire department, this is typically residents who either did not realize they were on evacuation order or missed it, or those who chose to stay,” Marsh said.

Dan Derby, Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Chief, added that while crews are actively working on rescues, residents should leave when ordered.

“There is a huge reminder in this event for people who are under evacuation order,” Derby said. “We have a lot of people who refused to leave under order and we have had to put a lot of our rescue resources into going back in to rescue these people when they did not leave under order originally.”

“We physically have swimmers in the water, door-to-door, involved with rescues in Area D and the city, this morning, all through the night last night,” he added.

Another 10 properties in Almond Gardens were evacuated Friday morning, despite being located well above the river. According to the RDKB, the properties were originally identified as being above the floodplain, but “the high streamflow has led to some instability of the riverbank which is now threatening the homes.”

Jessica Mace, volunteer coordinator, said that because another peak is expected, volunteers are stockpiling sandbags in Grand Forks at the arena and the airport, as well as at nine other locations through the Boundary.

Volunteers have been incredible, she said – over 1,000 volunteered yesterday alone, and many have brought food and water for volunteers.

At the arena in Grand Forks, dozens of volunteers were filling sandbags Friday afternoon.

“We have just an amazing group of volunteers, I tell you, the Grand Forks community has come together,” said Gabe Warriner, pastor at the River Valley Community Church.

Warriner is one of the volunteers who has been filling sandbags for weeks in preparation for what was initially expected of the flooding.

Now, the group is working quickly to move full sandbags to the most dire locations.

“Wherever there has been a levy that has broken through, we are reinforcing that with sandbags,” he said, adding that sandbagging machinery has been stations at locations across the city.

“We are filling them as fast as we can fill them.”

Marsh said that by the measurement gauge used for the Kettle River (located just south in Washington), the river peaked over 60 centimetres above the 1948 flood level, which had been the high point to date.

Derby said an “incident action plan” has been started to assess public infrastructure and homes for safety.

He maintained that the priority is to return people to their homes.

“It is a priority to get as many people into their homes as soon as possible,” he said.

In response to questions about a secondary peak, Marsh said that with the warm weather expected this week and a “significant” snowpack still present, there could be more on the way.

“This could be a long extended event for us and by no means are we thinking this is the only peak we will see,” he said.

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