With no more storms in forecast, Merritt officials can focus full-time on recovery efforts

Merritt's focus on recovery

UPDATE 4 p.m.

Interior Health says it is gradually resuming operations at the Nicola Valley Hospital in Merritt.

The hospital’s emergency department will resume 24/7 care on Friday at 7:30 a.m.

Anyone who needs a COVID-19 test can review their closest options when booking online here.

The health authority is also sharing resources on health hazards after floods.

"We will continue to work closely with municipalities, regional districts, and the province to ensure precautions are underway to protect patients, clients, and residents," IH said in a statement.

ORIGINAL 12:30 p.m.

With a series of devastating storms now in the rear-view mirror, the sole focus in Merritt is shifting Thursday to recovery.

“This is a pretty major milestone now that the onslaught of storms has stopped,” City of Merritt emergency operations spokesman Alan Stebbing told Castanet.

“This is a big step along that response pathway to ensure that we can get into recovery fully.”

Merritt was hit with catastrophic flooding following a historic atmospheric river in mid-November that pumped a record-setting amount of water into the Coldwater River. The city’s water system was knocked offline and other critical infrastructure failed, including a bridge that collapsed due to high water.

The city was evacuated on Nov. 15. Some residents have since returned home, but many — approximately two thirds to half of the city’s residents, according to a rough estimate by Stebbing — remain under evacuation order.

The Coldwater River has risen twice more in recent days as subsequent atmospheric rivers again pummelled B.C. — on Sunday and overnight Wednesday. Both times, diking and stabilization work completed by city crews and Canadian Armed Forces soldiers held the water at bay.

“That was the last of the forecasted atmospheric river storms,” Stebbing said.

“However, the response here hasn’t ended. And recovery will take some time, but there are lots of supports that will be here to finish the response phase and cover the recovery phase.”

Stebbing said the city hopes to resume regular municipal business next week.

“The plan at this point is that city hall will be open on Monday for regular business,” he said.

“But, of course, that is subject to everything staying status quo.”

Stebbing said the next items on the city’s to-do list are moving the water system to a boil-water advisory for Phase 3 homes, and then for the entire community.

“Beyond that, it’s going to be reconstruction of some streets that are impassable, reconstruction of a couple of sewer lines in particular areas,” he said.

The City of Merritt announced Thursday that the next portion of residents to return home will be allowed to do so on Sunday — assuming all goes well between now and then.

The city also said residents in Phase 4 — the area hardest hit by the floodwaters — will be granted day access beginning on Thursday. Access will be allowed daily between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

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