Old Fort landslide update - July 3, 2020

The Peace River Regional District says it will provide escorted access across the Old Fort landslide for those who can no longer remain in their homes.

North Peace Search and Rescue volunteers will support the evacuation efforts for those who can can no longer remain at home due to dwindling supplies or anxiety, the PRRD said July 3. Escorts will take place during daylight hours only via ATV, and no re-entry escort will be available, the PRRD said.

"The river situation has hampered our ability to deliver planned emergency water, garbage, and sewage services," the PRRD said in Friday's update.

Residents who want to leave are asked to call Emergency Support Services at 250-219-0447.

Water taxi service to Taylor was suspended Thursday for safety reasons due to the heavy rain and rising river levels. The Peace River downstream of Old Fort near the Pine River is moving at around 2,060 cubic metres per second.

Old Fort remains under evacuation alert, and around 70 people have already chosen to voluntarily evacuate the community.

The Peace Region has received between 70 to 140mm of rainfall since July 2, with further rain continuing through Saturday.

Stan Bates, executive director of operations for Emergency Management BC, says he does not expect any large-scale evacuations in parts of the province impacted by heavy rain, which also include the Cariboo and Thompson regions. 

Bates told Alaska Highway News his agency is continuing to work with the PRRD on providing services to Old Fort residents, but would not say at what point an evacuation order would be triggered. He deferred that matter to the PRRD.

"What I do know is there is no direct safety concern for a landslide to be triggered that would impact the homes themselves," Bates said, noting the lack of medical, policing, and other services to the community remains a concern.

"They do have contingency plans in place to make sure they can access those residents if they have an emergency need. We’re fully prepared to provide them all the support they would require should they make that decision." 

The PRRD says its work crews will be providing services on an intermittent basis using fan boats, but only when it is safe to do so. Trips will be for cargo except when supporting evacuation needs, it said.

"This is not a replacement for the water taxi service," the PRRD said. "Persons with vehicles at the Peace Island Park terminus can arrange for transport to their vehicle but there will be no return trip to Old Fort."

Over the next 72 hours, crews will focus on removing garbage to issues with bears and other wildlife, and providing water to households in dire need. Only a low volume of water delivery is possible by boat.

The Ministry of Transportation says it continues to monitor ponding and flowing water impacting the eastern crevice of the slide. 

"The slide continues to adjust to on-going changes and although the movements are currently slowing, it is not possible to continuously monitor and report all site changes and that makes the slide unsafe for the public to cross," the ministry said.

It is hoped a temporary access road can be established as early as next weekend, though that will depend on the weather and slide conditions.

"A geotechnical review of the slide area will determine when it is safe to start construction of what will initially be a temporary, supervised-use, access road," the PRRD said.

"Initially, the road will be used to provide passage for essential services vehicles including household water, garbage and sewage services."

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca.

© Copyright Alaska Highway News