A couple weeks ago I found myself high-tailing it out of the city for a much-needed (in my opinion) break from the rat race. The sun was shining bright on the hood of the car as I rolled the windows down to bask in the glory of the dry open road and the glorious beaches waiting for me in the Okanagan Valley.
Some of you might guess where I’m going with this.
There are no beaches in the Okanagan right now. Only lake. Lots of lake. The waters of Lake Okanagan in Kelowna, Peachland, and Penticton are as high as they’ve been since extensive flooding in 1948.
This really cut into my ability to take the great dane down to the dog beach to throw the ball around. But I’m not about to complain, it was still beautiful.
Except I was only passing through. Try looking for the silver lining when your home is ten minutes from the rising waters and everything you own is threatened. Needless to say, residents of the area weren’t sharing my optimism.
1. Stale Surface Water
“The saturated ground and high water table has already caused flooding in Zebeda’s backyard, and a few days ago water began to seep into her basement.
Zebeda, a single mother who works five days a week, said she hasn’t been able to spend as much time dealing with her property as she would like to.”
That’s Mission Creek resident Maria in an interview with the CBC a month ago as the shock of her situation literally started to set in. It’s a frightening prospect as you realize just how little power you have to prevent the flow of so much water.
Pay close attention to your surface water, Lower Mainlanders. If it’s sitting and not draining, your system (if you have a pump and drainage system) could be blocked, you could have poor quality impermeable fill, or the lack of maintaining your yard drainage (yes, you need to flush these lines and clean these catchbasins as well).
2. Downspouts & Eavestroughs
The symptoms of blocked drain pipes or systems that can’t handle the amount of flow they’re facing are a bit different in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island when compared with the situation in the Okanagan. Kelowna residents are facing an enlarged water table that their municipal and residential systems are battling to overcome.
Here on the island and in Vancouver, rain flow is our main enemy.
You’ll know your system is having issues if your eavestroughs are overflowing or your downspouts are splurging water at an alarming rate. Hopefully the fix is simply getting on a ladder and clearing any leaves or dirt or gunk that have accumulated in your eavestroughs, but if the problem is water not going down into the drainage system and overflowing, you have a bigger problem. The roof debris may have blocked the drainage system, this is not good. If you have lots of trees around, you should be installing gutter guards or debris catchers. These are a must.
No one wants to replace their basement floors, their furniture, or the wiring in the bottom half of their house, but that’s what will happen if you let procrastination get the best of you. For Maria, facing a situation out of her control and fighting with sandbags and pumps and good old fashioned muscle, it’s exhausting to deal with, and by no means did she procrastinate. Sometimes we just can’t control the elements.
If you see dirt stains on exterior walls or water flowing down the side of your house or stagnant water on your grass, please don’t sit and hope it will go away. We’re not asking you to spend a bunch of money (unless spending money now in order to avoid a catastrophic cost later is the right answer), we’re just saying it pays to be vigilant. The Lower Mainland isn’t immune from the conditions threatening the Okanagan right now, so don’t procrastinate.
Finally, we’re sending our best wishes to the hearty folk of the Okanagan. Between the fires and the floods and the wineries, our hats are off to you for dealing with all these issues year after year.
Take care and good luck!