1. Historic flooding

Castanet Penticton is counting down the five biggest stories of 2017. They are being determined by a combination of web-traffic, public interest and overall impact on the South Okanagan.

1) Flooding damages waterfronts across the South Okanagan

It was a slowly creeping threat, but it still caused millions of dollars worth of damage across the region.

Extraordinarily high rain and snowfall in March swelled creeks heading into Okanagan Lake.

By early May, the lake was full, rising as much as 12 centimetres a day.

The Penticton Fire Department mobilized, supported by crews from the BC Wildfire Service, and began armouring the Okanagan Lake waterfront with sandbags.

The largest blow came on May 23, when a thunderstorm clobbered the lakefront.

Paving stones and sand were undermined, washing away large sections of beach. Debris, including numerous shattered docks, was deposited on the beach. Volunteers would come together later in the summer to pick up the mess.

The Kiwanis Walking Pier was taken out, and will likely not be repaired until the end of next year. The breakwater around the Penticton Yacht Club failed. For the first time in three decades, the SS Sicamous floated in Okanagan Lake — but that brought challenges.

As the lake continued its relentless climb, fire crews stacked sandbags higher and fingers began to point.

After all, the level of the lake is supposed to be controlled by the Penticton Channel.

The man in control, Shaun Reimer, maintained that there was no way his team could have seen the rain and snow of the late spring coming, adding he was juggling fisheries obligations.

The Penticton Channel was well over its design capacity, meaning it was unsafe for floaters for much of the summer. That didn’t stop everyone though, and one person drowned after getting caught on a bridge pillar.

Email records released many months later would corroborate Remier’s story, but new Premier John Horgan announced in December the flood response would be examined alongside the catastrophic wildfires.

The City of Penticton sustained closed to $2M in damage; $660K to the waterfront (not including the pier) and over $1M to Penticton and Ellis creeks. The provincial government will be covering the majority of repairs.

Naramata also took damage, with some homes being swamped and lakeside roads washed out. In Summerland, much of Powell Beach was under water and several trees toppled. Sandbagging was widespread in Trout Creek.

Further south, homes were evacuated in Oliver after creeks burst their banks. Sandbagging took place around Osoyoos Lake, but damage was mostly avoided.

In the Twin Lakes area a street was swallowed by a lake, leading homeowners to beg for support.

Meanwhile, Penticton Tourism was trying its best to get the message out that the city was still open for business.

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