Hwy 97 still closed

UPDATE 6:50 a.m.

Penticton Search and Rescue has told Castanet they have been kept busy all weekend rescuing travellers determined to make their way past the rock slide which has forced the closure of Highway 97 between Kelowna and Penticton.

Earlier PENSAR had reported that they had been rescuing drivers who had gone off the road to get around the landslide. Late Sunday night Penticton SAR Manager, Randy Brown told Castanet, "our crews are still out in the back-country, so far we have evacuated 8 persons over the past 24 hours ( 6 in the last 6 hours)," that was as of 10 p.m. Sunday night.

The last six days have been very busy for the PENSAR team, they had also been assisting with the Merritt search and have now shifted closer to home because of the rock slide.

"All we ask is for people to heed the road advisories and follow Drive BC guidance," says Brown and of course check with Castanet for the latest updates.

UPDATE 5:00 a.m.

Highway 97 remains closed in both directions Monday morning after a major rock slide caused serious problems for drivers and highway maintenance crews.

British Columbia’s transportation ministry said it is working to get the road open as soon as it is safe, however, there is no estimate for a reopening time as the slide site continues to move.

Provincial transportation officials indicate that an alternate route had been set up for light vehicles. Vehicles weighing less than five tons are allowed to use the 201 Forest Service Road on the east side of Okanagan Lake. Access is off Highway 33 near McCollough Road on the Kelowna side and use Warren Avenue/Carmi Avenue in Penticton.

SAR and RCMP are urging drivers to use only approved alternate routes after several drivers have become stranded trying to find their own detours on the weekend.

Drive BC had been suggesting drivers take the Okanagan Connector, Highway 97C, to Highway 5A and then turn onto Highway 3 at Princeton and take Highway 3A.

UPDATE 6:40 p.m

The rock slide which forced the closure of and Highway 97 has now resulted in the cancellation Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture, and representatives of Interior Health's visit to Penticton which was scheduled for Monday at 11 a.m. at the Penticton Regional Hospital.

Popham was expected to make an announcement to support B.C. farmers and producers and which should benefit British Columbians served by health-care facilities in B.C.'s southern Interior.

ORIGINAL 6:22 p.m.

Penticton Seach and Rescue are reminding motorists not to attempt any back road detours around the rock slide which has been wreaking havoc on travel between Kelowna and Penticton all weekend.

Despite warnings from Police, some drivers are still relying on GPS or in-car navigation systems to get from Penticton to Kelowna via back roads behind Summerland.

So far, Penticton Search and Rescue has had to send rescue crews into back roads to evacuate 2 stranded drivers with the last call coming on Sunday afternoon.

With temperatures heading down this evening Ron Muir - SAR Manager can't reinforce the message enough. "People are obviously frustrated and despite the warnings from police officials they think they have a solution, and try a route this is not intended for year-round use. What we find is that drivers are not equipped to deal with an emergency if they become stranded, thus putting themselves and rescue crews at risk."

SAR Manager, Randy Brown tells Castanet, "All we can ask is to please - respect the advisories being posted and make sure you are prepared with a winter driving kit."

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