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Threat of slow-moving landslide in small B.C. town forces resident to consider moving
Published Monday, June 22, 2020 6:53AM PDT
A slow moving landslide is seen inching down a hillside in northern British Columbia, prompting the evacuation of nearby Old Fort, B.C., in an undated handout photo. A resident of a small community on the banks of British Columbia's Peace River says he's concerned that if he leaves, he won't be able to come home. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-B.C. Ministry of Forests and Lands, Marten Geertsema
VANCOUVER -- A resident of a small community on the banks of British Columbia's Peace River says he's concerned that if he leaves, he won't be able to come home.
Karl Kirschbaum, 68, said he's watched the only road in and out of Old Fort, B.C., gradually slip down the side of a slope.
“It's just moving toward the river, the whole road,” Kirschbaum said in an interview.
The residents of Old Fort, just outside Fort St. John, have been on evacuation alert since Friday evening.
The same community was evacuated in 2018 because of a slow-moving landslide at that location.
Ground movement has again been detected near the subdivision, affecting the only road access in and out of the area, the Peace River Regional District says in the alert.
About 150 metres of the road is affected and the cracking extends 100 metres upslope, while “creeping behaviour” is moving down from the road and there's a ripple in the ground.
The slow-moving landslide has sped up to between 30 and 45 cm per hour, it says.
Anyone not prepared to shelter in place was encouraged to consider leaving the area, as the situation could worsen.
“The ground movement has created difficulty for the Ministry of Transportation to maintain the road in a safe and passable condition, and the likelihood, duration and speed of cotinued ground movement is unpredictable at this time,” the alert says.
It's all familiar to Kirschbaum, who said he's trying to decide whether he should walk the road out of the subdivision so he can go to work on the other side or not.
When residents were forced to leave in 2018 because of a slow-moving slide at the same location, they couldn't return for weeks, he said.
His wife stayed home to look after the animals on their acreage that fall, he said. Supplies like bottled water were shipped in but those who left couldn't return, he said.
The community lost power during that slide but the power is still on this time, he said.
Norris Noble lives just above the slide so he said he's not affected by the road closure, but he said it's a familiar scene.
“It's just slowly creeping, it's the same as last time,” he said.
The regional district is asking residents to make an evacuation plan, including packing essential items and establishing meeting locations outside the community should the alert be upgraded to an order.
Residents should plan for a variety of situations and determine if their individual situations allow them to remain safely in place or not if road access is lost.
Emergency support services are only available to those who evacuate, it said in Friday's alert.
Old Fort Road was closed in both directions Sunday due to a washout and geotechnical assessment was ongoing, Drive BC said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 22, 2020.