OKANAGAN – Emergency operations officials throughout the Okanagan have known since at least Monday that Okanagan Lake is likely to rise to near historic levels but revealed it Thursday.
Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources says the lake will likely rise to 343 metres and may go higher, but that information was largely withheld from the public.
If indeed the lake reaches 343 metres — just 25 centimetres below last year’s high water mark and 52 cms above full pool — considerable damage is once again likely.
The lake is currently at 342.42 metres and rising at roughly six centimetres per day, though the rate of rise is expected to diminish in the next week, according to the ministry.
In 2017 – boats were prohibited from the lake, BC government firefighters were stationed around the Okanagan in camps to help fill millions of sandbags to protect properties and hundreds of boat docks, boats and other facilities were damaged.
There was no mention of the predicted lake level in any emergency operations releases earlier this week from the North Okanagan, Central Okanagan or South Okanagan regional districts.
The only mention of it before May 17, was a release posted to the City of Penticton website two days earlier and by the District of Summerland.
Shaun Reimer said he calculated the 343 metre number on Monday afternoon and discussed it with emergency operations officials shortly after.
He said he discussed flood messaging with the emergency operations centres but it was centred around the “subtlety” of the information they would release, rather than hard numbers.
“We don’t want to cause panic and misunderstanding out there,” said Reimer.
When asked today why they didn’t release that information earlier, Central Okanagan public information officer Ed Henczel said the number “doesn’t really mean anything” to most people.
Source: John McDonald, Info-tel News