The swollen Chilliwack-Vedder River this week looked like chocolate milk.
That’s when the public should make a point of staying well away from the edge of local creeks and rivers, said Doug Fraser, search manager for Chilliwack Search and Rescue.
“It’s a good time to get people thinking,” he said on Wednesday. “The river is raging right now.”
The roiling waters of the Chilliwack-Vedder system are common occurrence every fall as heavy rains return. It’s usually just before the mercury dips below zero on a regular basis.
It’s mostly anglers who might take to the river at this time of year, fishing for the coho and chum coming through.
But water levels have been rising rapidly, according to the Chilliwack river hydrometric gauge at the Vedder bridge. There were two rainfall warnings this week.
Correspondingly, the fishermen appear to have been staying away from the riverbanks in the past few days. The levels went up 70 cm in 24 hours on Tuesday.
“I’ve noticed there were very few cars parked by the river this week. I think people get it,” said Fraser.
If possible avoid the rivers and creeks in the area, stay back at least 10 metres, and always wear a PFD.
“In terms of fishing, the chances of catching a fish goes way down in these conditions,” he noted. The turbidity and reduced visibility make it hard.
Chilliwack SAR is consistently the second busiest search and rescue team in British Columbia, Fraser pointed out. So it makes sense to come out with some prevention messaging for river users right now.
SAR officials have studied the team’s callout patterns, to help with prevention and safety. Several fatalities have been reported in past years and rescue officials want to get the word out to prevent more needless drownings or injuries.
“We noticed that some of the calls at this time of year are for fisherman who may have underestimated the power of the water, or walked into a spot and got trapped when the river comes up and they’re unable to return to shore.”
People on Chilliwack’s most popular trail, the Vedder Rotary Trail, should also keep an eye on their pets and young children.
“If you are on the trail with children, hold them by the hand, and make sure your pets are leashed when the river is raging like this.”
Levels should be dropping by late December, but in the mean time, keep and eye out. Continue to pay attention to rain fall warnings and river conditions, the SAR volunteer added.