UPDATE: Highway 33 repairs still underway

Repairs for Highway 33 are still underway

The portion of Highway 33 east of Kelowna that crumbled Tuesday is still being worked on and there is still no information yet on when it will be re-opened.

B.C. ministry of transportation crews are working on road repairs, but they’re slow going.

“This work was initially challenging due to the saturated ground, but good progress is being made. Three excavators and one loader are being utilized on site, with six trucks hauling material,” said a representative from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

“Our geotechnical team continues to assess the area, and will determine when it is safe to at least partially open the road to vehicle traffic.

Higher than average snowpacks in the South Okanagan are increasing the risk of mudslides and washouts, and ministry staff are doing everything possible to maintain safe conditions and minimize road closures.

Traffic is closed in both directions of Highway 33 extending from Mission Creek Bridge to the eastern boundary of Kelowna. A detour via Goudie Road and Cardinal Creek Road is available.

Deborah Cameron, owner of Heartland Ranch on Highway 33 near the washout site, said the incident raised concerns for her.

“It’s further down from me toward the Falcon Ridge subdivision, but it is frightening to see something like that happen,” Cameron said, who lives just east of the 8 Mile Curve on the highway that leads to Big White Ski Resort.

“We just had a mudslide near (8 Mile curve) a few days ago so you wonder if this might be an ongoing thing. Mother Nature is definitely ticked off.”

Cameron said the combination of the high saturation level of the ground and high snowmelt causing trees to snap which otherwise provide stability for the moisture-drenched soil is a concern.

“We’ve lost about 55 trees on our property this winter from the weight of the snow,” she said.

With the Highway 33 closure, some Joe Rich residents initially commented on Facebook about transport truck traffic using the detour route and the increased traffic posing rural pedestrian safety concerns.

Ministry officials were apparently listening as truck traffic was subsequently barred from using the detour route by early Tuesday afternoon.

The Central Okanagan Emergency program, Regional District of Central Okanagan fire departments, regional parks, public works crews and the BC Ministry of Environment continue to monitor creek water levels as the spring runoff is in its very early stages.

That monitoring Tuesday afternoon led to the closure of a section of the Mission Creek Greenway due to two washout slides.

The Pinnacle Trail loop past the KLO Creek Bridge, the Black Bear Trail along Mission Creek and the upper Greenway Trail leading to the Hydraulic Creek trail-end are closed until further notice while RDCO staff assesses damage, stability and possible repairs that will be required.

For safety reasons, the regional district urges Greenway users to respect the barricades and trail closed signs posted at the KLO Creek Bridge downstream from Field Road entrance.

Bruce Smith, spokesman for the RDCO, said there are no imminent threats of flooding in the Central Okanagan electoral areas while an isolated overland flooding issue in the Valley of the Sun subdivision that flooded in the past is being monitored.

Depending on the weather, the risk of above average creek levels and potential flooding could rise given the higher than average snowpack at the mid and upper elevations.

Smith said those living near creeks, streams and low-lying properties that have had flooding issues in the past are reminded that they are responsible for having an emergency plan as well as the tools and equipment necessary to protect their properties from possible flood damage.

Sand and sandbags are available for residents who wish to prepare at four RDCO fire halls:

• Ellison Station 61 – 4411 Old Vernon Road

• North Westside Short’s Creek fire hall Station 102 7355 Westside Road North

• Joe Rich Station 51 – 11481 Highway 33 East

• Wilson’s Landing Station 42 – 2396 Westside Road North

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