Scramble to halt flooding

Alanna Kelly

Several homes on both sides of Highway 33 in the Belgo - Black Mountain area are dealing with water running off the mountain and seeping into their homes.

Hoses, sump pumps and sandbags filled the streets on both Kirschner and Black Mountain Thursday, as light rain fell over the Okanagan Valley.

Residents have reported flooding since the evening of March 15 on Verde Vista Road, Charleswood Drive, Traut Court, Longley Crescent, Oswell Drive and Large Avenue.

“Talk to the developer and they say talk to the city, city says talk to the developer and what can you do,” said Eric Kuiack who lives on Longley Crescent.

He has lived on Black Mountain for over 10 years and said they experienced flooding when new development started right above their home.

“About five days ago we had water coming out in front of the house,” said Kuiack.

Kuiack dug a trench to direct the water down his property and into a drain.

Residents across the way on Kirschner Mountain have grown frustrated, saying runoff water is being pushed into their homes on Charleswood Drive.

Alex Maxwell found his basement and garage flooded on Charleswood Drive early this week.

“Trying to stay on top of the water,” he said. “It won’t do the trick but right now the water is too much in the ground already.”

Neighbours have speculated and openly stated they believe the recent development on Kirschner Mountain has caused flooding in their homes.

Since then, landowner Al Kirschner and the City of Kelowna have deployed teams to assist the homeowners and they've also tried to get melting snow off the top of the mountain.

We have it under control, we are pumping water out of here, hauling water out of here, we are getting water out of here every which way we can right at the present time," Kirschner said.

Thursday night, a residents on Verde Vista Road said they saw rocks and mud sliding down a small section of their backyard.

“I’m terrified … the slope is super unstable, just sunk up to my knees on ‘solid’ ground below slope,” the resident said. 

Gary Withers, who lives on Traut Court, said he's lived at his home for over 20 years and they've been experiencing flooding since last Thursday.

“It never stops,” said Withers. “Is it the development or snowpack?”

Jonathan Boyd a hydrologist at the River Forecast Centre said there has been a significant difference in snowpack from this year to last year.

“The Valley was 141 per cent of normal for the Okanagan Basin, and that was considerably higher than last year,” he said.

Last March, the snowpack was 14 per cent below normal. This year, it's 41 per cent above normal.

“There have been two other years in the past seven years that have been above normal,” said Boyd. “Any time we are above 135 per cent of normal, then we are high alert for the risk of potential flooding.”

Boyd said it would be a good thing to have some really warm days in late March or early April to melt the snow and then to have it go cold again, then warm and then cold.

Since word broke about flooding homes, many people have contacted Castanet looking for guidance and assistance.

Withers said he hasn’t received any answers about the cause of the flooding and would like some assistance from the City of Kelowna on what to do.

“What can or can’t be done to help us?” he asked.

City of Kelowna staff said they are keeping a close eye on the situation at Kirschner Mountain, but did not comment on the widespread flooding.

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