Stay back from the water’s edge this weekend if you’re planning to be near the rivers around Chilliwack, warn the experts.
No road closures are in effect, but the roiling waters of the annual spring freshet are making some of the local riverbanks unstable.
Water levels of the mighty Fraser River and its tributaries have been rising steadily all week.
Watchers at the BC River Forecast Centre are predicting the Fraser will continue to rise at Hope, peaking on Saturday or Sunday at 11,000 cubic metres per second.
Last year it peaked at 12,000 cu.m/s by comparison. Areas inside Chilliwack dikes will be protected up to 15,000 cu.m/s and are not considered at risk, say city officials. Residents outside the dikes should continue to monitor local conditions and follow updates on the city website.
Links to the Provincial River Forecast Centre can be found there as well.
City officials are closely monitoring river levels and dike patrols have started.
“The river bank is very unstable. Please protect your personal safety and avoid getting too close,” reads the city press release.
With the river expected to peak in the middle of the first long weekend of the year, a word of caution is advised, says Chilliwack Search and Rescue search manager Doug Fraser.
The local SAR team is called out 70 to 80 times a year, sometimes for swift water rescues when people get stuck on a gravel bar, or tossed into the river.
“What makes it dangerous for people right now is the high rate of speed at which the water is flowing, and the fact that the shorelines might be unstable.
“It’s strong enough to uproot trees and send them down the river.”
The Chilliwack river was moving at about 9-10 km/hr recently, the SAR official noted, with lots of debris mixed in. Compare that to when people go tubing during the summer months, and the river meanders at 4-5 km/hr, to see the increased danger factor.
“It’s crazy how fast it’s moving. You definitely don’t want to be recreating near that water now.”
The water levels in some areas are higher than they would normally be at this point in the year, he noted.
“The record breaking temperatures we had along with the rain have made conditions quite treacherous,” said Fraser. “People who are going to take a look at the river over the weekend, should make sure they are staying well back from the edge.”
The Chilliwack River will likely peak before the weekend, and the Fraser by Sunday, but the water levels will still remain higher than normal for a while after that.
“There’s still a lot of snow coming off the mountains. One of the saving graces is that the high temperatures we saw last week are not being predicted for the weekend.”
The only other safety message he has is for hikers:
“Make sure someone knows where you’re going and when you’re coming back. Be prepared with food, clothes, and water.”
A first aid kit is always a good idea.
“People are eager to get outside over the May long weekend. So we are hoping they keep it safe out there.”