Smithers faces state of emergency over ice jam
A state of emergency remains in effect for a community in northern British Columbia after an ice jam forced more than a dozen people to leave their homes.
It's all unfolding near the town of Smithers. Water levels rose faster than expected and homes in the Ebenezer flats area have been flooded.
People like Jennifer Cameron, who live in Ebeneezer flats in Smithers know what ice floating down the river means and they have been preparing for the worst.
"I was really surprised when I got there, the whole river was just alive, the ice was flowing, huge icebergs the size of my truck,'' said Cameron
And when the icebergs come together the ice jam is even bigger. On Saturday one and a half kilometers of ice blocked the Nechako River and caused floodwaters to rise -- getting a little too close to homes on the flood plain
The local government declared a state of emergency and closed off roads.
Officials have evacuated 40 people from their houses to the emergency staging area at a nearby school. Others have chosen to wait the river out.
"There are some people that have elected to stay behind,'' said Incident Commander Keith Stecko. "We've taken their particulars down. We're monitoring the situation. No one has been hurt.''
It's not the first time that this neighbourhood has been flooded. Just two years ago, locals worked hard to sandbag their homes, and while some of them were flooded, the sandbags mostly held the water back
But there's another problem. The river may compromise drinking water. Many homes get their water from wells -- and with rising waters, residue from septic tanks could make drinking water unsafe.
"It kind of turns into a health issue,'' said Stoney Stoltenberg, of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako.
"Water through the area, each house has its own septic system, the ground is pretty well saturated with water, and we need to assess all of that before people move back into their homes."
But these kinds of situations can change quickly. On Saturday afternoon, it looked like the ice jam was breaking up, and the floodwaters were starting to recede
Three hours earlier, it looked completely different.
That's why residents are hoping to see an improvement before the end of the weekend.
Smithers is a town of about 6,000 people located about 1,150 kilometres north of Vancouver
With a report by CTV British Columbia's Jon Woodward