Highway closure impacts businesses

The complete closure of the highway between Kelowna and Penticton is already starting to impact some area businesses.

Friday evening, Highway 97 was closed to traffic in both directions after crews with Arthon Construction noticed that a fissure had opened up on the rock face near Summerland.

It is estimated the fissure is about thirty feet deep, several feet wide and contains several hundred thousand cubic metres of rock, which officials fear could cause a devastating rock slide into Okanagan Lake.

Tom Cornwall owns the Two Chefs restaurant in Peachland, which is located less than five kilometres from the fissure.

“We do get a lot of business from people travelling by on the highway. I noticed on Saturday that we had about ten fewer tables filled than we normally do on a weekend. Luckily, we do have a strong local cliental, so that should help,” says Cornwall.

He says the officials with the Ministry of Transportation have been very helpful.

“There was an official in here Saturday to speak with area business owners about their concerns. My concern was that the flaggers were turning drivers coming from Kelowna around before they could drive by the restaurant. The official was very helpful, now they are turning people around after they drive by the restaurant and the flaggers let them know that the businesses in this area are still open.”

One of the flaggers working near the fissure is Tara Larson.

“I was the one assigned to work right next to the fissure this morning. I didn’t even really realize what had happened until after I got the assignment and went online to check the news,” says Larson.

She says she wasn’t given any special instructions on what to do if the rocks start to slide.

Geotechnical engineers are taking measurements of the fissure over the weekend to see if it expands.

Highway 97 remains closed to traffic for about seven kilometres near Summerland. Drivers who must travel between Kelowna and Penticton are advised to take Highway 3 or 3A, to Highway 5 until they get back onto Highway 97. The alternate route takes about two hours.

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