High Skeena River water levels resulted in flooding of low-lying areas in the Terrace area last week, as rain coupled with fast snowmelt prompted the BC River Forecast Centre to issue a flood watch for the river.
In response, the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine issued an evacuation order and declared a state of local emergency for portions of Electoral Area C, including New Remo and Old Remo.
The City of Terrace closed Ferry Island and Fisherman’s Park on June 2, before opening its Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) as Skeena River water levels continued to rise later in the day, and there were also reports of water reaching the level of one of the CN rail bridges west of Terrace.
The highways ministry closed the Nisga’a Highway to light duty vehicles at the McKay Bridge in the Nass Valley on June 3, and travel in smaller vehicles was not recommended between the Nass Road and Big Cedar Bridge due to flooding over the road.
On June 2, the BC River Forecast Centre reported that automated snow weather stations in the area registered 35-55 millimetres of precipitation in 48-hours, significantly increasing the rate of snowmelt.
The water level for the Skeena River at Usk was nearly 12 metres on June 4 at 11 a.m., compared to around six metres on May 25, according to Environment Canada data from Station 08EF001.
According to the Forecast Centre’s June 2 advisory, the Skeena River at Usk was flowing at 4,900 cubic metres per second (between 2 and 5‐year flow) and forecast to potentially reach 20‐year return period levels. That means that the river’s rate of flow (at 4,900 cubic metres per second) is what is expected to occur once every two or five years and the river was forecast to potentially reach a once-in-20-years projection level.
Terrace Search and Rescue was busy carrying out operations in the area as rising water levels left people stranded in their homes.
On June 2, SAR responded to a call to rescue a woman and her animals in Old Remo. SAR was successfully able to drag a boat over a stretch of road and reach the woman safely.
In the evening, RCMP contacted SAR to advise them of campers stranded at Red Sand Lake north of Terrace. Terrace SAR vice-president Dave Jephson said that a SAR team was able to reach the campers via the river and lake. When they arrived, SAR was notified of two more people were stuck at Hart Farm and were also able to rescue them.
The next day (June 3) SAR returned to Red Sand Lake and rescued 11 more people who had chosen to safely stay the night.
Then SAR got a call from the RDKS about two more people stranded in Old Remo. They used a helicopter to reach the area, but when they arrived a woman at another house was trapped with her husband who was in a wheelchair.
“So we came back, we picked up more SAR people with the helicopter and a boat, ended up working a boat,” Jephson said.
“We had to load the subject into the boat from the house, down the road to a safe area where the helicopter could land and then removed all of them.”
On June 3, Jephson said that he expected that most people had been evacuated from the worst affected areas, but that SAR would be ready for any situations that could arise. He also expressed frustration with people ignoring barricades to get a closer look at the water.
“Stay away from the water, do not drive around signs, if you cannot read the sign you probably shouldn’t be driving,” he said.
“People are driving around signs and now getting in the way of the authorities and getting in the way of the residents, it’s just causing lots of problems.”
On the evening of June 3, the City of Terrace announced that the risk of flood may have crested, based on on-site observations and data.