Washout closes Eastside Rd.

UPDATE 5:45 p.m.

The Ministry of Transportation says Eastside Road is now closed due to a small slide north of Okanagan Falls.

In a statement to Castanet, the provincial government says staff have closed a section of the road pending a geotechnical assessment scheduled for Tuesday morning to determine necessary repairs.

A detour has been set up on McLean Creek road and residents in the area will be able access their homes.

“The ministry will continue to monitor this section over the weekend,” the statement says.

ORIGINAL 3:50 p.m.

The sharp eye of a boater on Skaha Lake may have averted a disaster, spotting a partial washout of Eastside Road north of Okanagan Falls.

Tera-Lee Derkatch-Caverly snapped a picture Sunday of the crumbling roadway, posted it to the local “Penticton” Facebook group and called RCMP.

Another Facebook user helped out Derkatch-Caverly, who is from out of town, and reported the small slide to the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen.

Police have attended and are inspecting the roadway, which remains open for the time being. The slide is located just south of Kipper Cove. 

Castanet has reached out to the provincial government will update as more information becomes available.


Fallen climber rescued

A helicopter was required to rescue a fallen rock climber in Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park Sunday.

Emergency crews were called out shortly before noon for a 36-year-old female climber that had fallen about 20 feet in the Grassy Glades area.

The Penticton and District Search and Rescue's longline helicopter team responded while ground crews from PenSAR and the Penticton Fire Department made the 25-30 minute hike in from the parking lot to the fall site.

“A good joint event between everybody. Good cooperation and communication, everything went extremely well,” said PenSAR search manager Dale Jorgensen.

The fallen climber was conscious and breathing, but suffering from a back and hip injuries. She was taken by helicopter to a waiting ambulance at the Skaha Bluffs parking lot and rushed to hospital.

Funds for flood mitigation

Four projects in the South Okanagan and Similkameen have received a piece of the $3 million the provincial government handed out last week for flood mitigation work.

The City of Penticton has received just under $60,000 to draw up a flood mitigation plan, while the Village of Keremeos, Town of Princeton and Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen have received a combined $589,000 to create a regional flood risk assessment and map for the Similkameen River.

“Being prepared is about understanding hazards and finding ways to better protect the public,” said Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness. “This funding will help local governments assess the risks that are unique to their communities and take steps to prevent and prepare for disasters before they happen.”

This batch of funding is a part of $33.5 million announced back in 2017 to help local governments cope with disaster better.


Program to help barn cats

Chelsea Powrie

Feral cats in the South Okanagan may soon have a new opportunity for a forever home through Critteraid Animal Sanctuary's program aimed at finding homes for felines that don't fit in a normal home.

"So the barn cat program will be for us to be able to safely house and isolate cats that aren't set up for home environments, and we can adopt them right from here," said Jess Byer, Critteraid animal director.

They are building a small barn with an outdoor portion on the Critteraid lands so that outdoor cats who aren't necessarily the cuddly, indoors types will have a place at their sanctuary while they wait to find a placement. Byer said ideal forever homes for these kinds of cats could be vineyards or farms.

"We're looking for wonderful new barn homes where they can go to work and help keep rodent populations down in a safe way, and we're just looking at helping get the ferals off the street," Byer said. 

Critteraid is currently looking for windows, doors, siding and insulation to get their barn up to an all-weather standard ahead of moving cats in. Byer said the shelter will be ideal for chronically outdoor cats.

"The cats won't have the same interaction with people. Some of them may be more friendly, but we'll assess that as they come in."

For more information on Critteraid or to donate to their projects, click here

Grateful after heart attack

Rose Gingras experienced one of the saddest days of her life when her husband had a heart attack, but an act of human kindness from the owners of the motel she was staying at made things a little bit easier. 

Gingras is the former animal control officer for the City of Penticton. She retired from the job after 28 years in 2018, hoping to enjoy some leisure time with her husband, who was also retired.

They checked in at the Summerland Motel for a visit on May 6, but the vacation ended in tragedy. 

"We checked in and then my husband was having some pain in his chest," Gingras said. "He's got a history of heart problems in his past, he thought that's what it was. He started having a heart attack and I phoned 9-1-1 and started doing chest compressions."

Paramedics arrived, and during the process of life-saving attempts, bodily fluids were expelled and the room was left in a mess. Sadly, after transport to hospital, Gingras' 70-year-old husband did not survive.

Through all the pain of losing her partner she was also tortured by the thought of the trashed room back at the motel. 

"I had visions of having to pay for the restoration company to come in and I was pretty horrified by it all," Gingras said. "I tried my best to clean it up because I couldn't envision myself being able to pay for it."

But the Summerland Motel stepped up. They spoke to Gingras' friend, who had gone to the front desk to explain the situation, and provided some news that was a small beacon of light during an otherwise dark time. 

"She came out and she told me they waived the fees for the room and the cleaning and whatnot," Gingras explained. "It was incredible. I will forever be grateful."

Gingras took to social media in the week following her husband's death to highlight the Summerland Motel for a kindness she says she will never forget. 

"Although it is a dreadful time for me, that bit of compassion has helped," she wrote in a local Facebook group. "Thank you so very, very much."

Watch for half-marathoners

The 21st annual Peach City Half Marathon and 10-kilometre run will take place Sunday May 19, and organizers are asking drivers in the Skaha Lake area to be alert and aware in the morning. 

The finish line will be at Skaha Lake Park by the volleyball courts with the first 10-kilometre runners arriving around 8:30 a.m. and the final half marathon runners finishing round 11 a.m.

A total of around 200 runners will be participating. Drivers are asked to keep their eyes peeled for runners and traffic marshals. 

The course follows Skaha Lake Road north to Kinney Avenue and onto South Main Street to Eastside Road to Skaha Estates. 

There may be traffic delays by Derenzy Place and before Skaha Estates.

Too big a bond to break

Ann Meacham isn't sure whether she will ever see the people gathered at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre Saturday afternoon again.

It was a gathering of former Greyhound bus drivers and employees, a final party to celebrate what was once an inter-provincial family network that dissolved when Greyhound pulled its western Canada services in October. 

Around 150 former employees showed up to mingle at the event organized by former driver Meacham that was paid for in part by pop cans and bottles left on Greyhound buses over the past few years. But it's a far cry from the party she was originally planning. 

"I was told about two and a half years ago that Greyhound wouldn't give us any more money for retirement parties, and I'd been putting on retirement parties for many years so I thought 'Oh great, mine's probably the next one, so I guess I'll have to put on my own,'" Meacham said. "Then of course we got the news we were losing our jobs, so I decided to make something worthwhile."

She cashed in $2,000 worth of recyclables and planned the bash in Penticton for the long weekend with golfing, barbecues and a supper event at the Trade and Convention Centre. People gathered from around western Canada and from as far away as Prince Edward Island, eager for the chance to to celebrate the Greyhound family one last time. 

"We've always been a close knit group of people, we've had parties for years, especially in this area," Meacham said. "It's hard to see that go where we might not see each other again. That was the hard part."

Meacham, who spent 26 years driving a bus to and from Vancouver and the Interior, has kept meticulous records of the Greyhound gatherings she has been a part of over the years. She brought several large photo albums to the party Saturday, filled with photos of Greyhound employees and their families, reaching back decades.  

As she turned the pages, others stopped by, pointing to faces they knew and reminiscing. Meacham said as much as this weekend's event has been wonderful, it's also emotional, knowing things will never be the same. 

"I really enjoy organizing these parties, I'm going to miss it," she said. "But it's just too strong a bond that we've built over the years for it to end."

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