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Kelowna  

1. Year of historic floods

Nothing could have prepared Okanagan residents for the floods of 2017.

Rivers, streams, creeks and lakes all spilled their banks during the worst flooding the area has seen in decades.

Okanagan Lake reached historic, but not record levels, of 343.250 metres above sea level, surpassing levels in 1990 and 1999. The record high of 343.280 metres above sea level was set in 1948.

City crews and property owners piled sandbags several metres high to keep the rising lake at bay. But, some along Mill and Mission creeks were already underwater.

Flooding ended up affecting communities from Vernon to Penticton. A number of factors contributed. Heavy rain in March and April, record late-season snowfalls and warm temperatures that followed.

Things culminated when an intense spring storm hit the valley May 4 and 5, swelling creeks, flooding basements and streets.

Several low-lying areas were evacuated as warm temperatures continued to bring more water down from higher elevations, putting a further strain on already rising creeks and streams, and causing Okanagan Lake to rise to dangerously high levels.

Two million sandbags were filled and placed around the Central Okanagan. Gabion dams and bladder dams were also deployed to keep the water at bay.

Boaters were asked to slow down, or curtail activities altogether out of respect to those along the lake trying to keep the water out.

Okanagan Lake finally crested the first week of June, and didn't get back to normal levels until the end of July.

Shaun Reimer, who controls water flow out of Okanagan Lake from the dam in Penticton, became a lightning rod of criticism for allowing the lake to reach such heights.

Reimer told Castanet, based on information he had, his decision not to release water before the floods hit would not have changed. He said the Okanagan appeared headed for drought conditions with low snowpacks in the early months of the year.

"There was nothing to suggest it was going to start raining in March, and keep raining," Reimer said.

A full review into the floods will be conducted.

Okanagan communities spent millions to keep the flood waters at bay, and following the event to remove sandbags and repair damaged infrastructure.

Kelowna taxpayers will be on the hook for about $3.3 million in flood recovery costs.



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