Rockslide near Keremeos could be 'traumatizing' for some, residents wait to return home

'Traumatizing' rockslide

Casey Richardson

UPDATE: 3:40 p.m.

More than 20 people are still out on evacuation order on Tuesday after a rockslide tumbled down across Highway 3 and into an RV Park near Keremeos.

The rockslide rushed down just before 11:30 a.m. on Monday morning, about two kilometres from the centre of Keremeos.

The highway was soon closed off at the start of the four-lane junction, going west of Keremeos.

“A bunch of boulders came down, bounced across the highway, one took out and damaged a fifth wheel and another went through breaking up some equipment. And fortunately, no one got injured or hurt. But the possibility was truly there,” Tim Roberts, Electoral Area G director responsible for rural Keremeos said.

"It was quite traumatizing for the people that experienced it."

The RCMP started a tactical evacuation due to the instability above the park.

“Most people went in and got registered yesterday that needed to be,” Roberts said, adding that their numbers sit between approximately 25 to 30 people.

On Tuesday morning, geotechnical crews were using a helicopter to assess the area for stability.

“Well, it is a naturally occurring thing around here when you live in with sharp defiles, mountains and small valleys, you have basically the contraction that happens with the freezing. And as we all experience, we had a quite significant freeze. Now we've had a thaw, then all of sudden, everything opens up, the water starts to melt, goes in between the cracks in the rocks, and the rocks fall.”

“So if you sit around anywhere in town, you're gonna continue to hear little rock slides here, there and everywhere."

Robert said this is earlier than normal for the Similkameen Valley to experience.

“Now we're having a lot of loosening of the rocks at the higher elevations and then they pick up momentum and then hit the valley floor.”

The slide impacted the area around the Fas Gas and Eagle RV Park, which are between Ashnola Road and 10th Avenue, late Monday morning

“If it happens next to you, it's very significant, it's very traumatizing," Roberts said

"It's pretty traumatic to see something the size of a fridge go banging past your RV. People will remember that for a long time.”

Roberts said he was grateful that no one was injured by the slide, and added that things are progressing well. Highway 3 reopened on Tuesday afternoon.

He added that it also serves as a good reminder for everyone to be as prepared as possible.

“I think it's important for everyone to understand that, especially with our changing weathers with floods and fires and as we know with these rock slides that will continue to happen in the valley, have a grab and go bag, have a family emergency kit,” he said.

“And if you want to understand more about emergency services and what they provide or be a volunteer, this is a good opportunity to remind us that we all need to work together to stay safe.”

RDOS residents can sign up for Voyent Alert notifications via email, text or telephone to keep updated on all emergency conditions here.

UPDATE: 1:55 p.m.

Highway 3 has reopened to vehicle traffic as of Tuesday afternoon.

DriveBC reports the route has been cleared.

There is no word yet as to the status of the evacuation orders for Eagle RV Park.

ORIGINAL: 10 a.m.

Highway 3 remains closed in both directions near Keremeos as crews continue to assess a rockslide site.

The slide took place late Monday morning, sending large boulders across the highway and into the Eagle RV Park, causing some property damage but no injuries.

The RV Park has been strategically evacuated, and an Emergency Support Services centre is located at Keremeos' Victory Hall.

The highway is closed between Ashnola Road and 10th Avenue.

A detour for light vehicles only is in place via River Road. Drivers are asked to follow all signage and obey traffic control personnel.

Heavy vehicles are prohibited until further notice, and can detour through Highway 5A to Highway 97C or Highway 3A to Highway 97.

More Penticton News