NORTH SHUSWAP — Residents using dinghies and canoes to get back and forth from the roadside to their front doors are relieved at reports Shuswap Lake has reached its peak.
Now they're watching, and worrying, about the prospect of storms.
"Two nights ago we had big waves," said Larry Morrey, a resident of a low-lying area of waterfront at Scotch Creek whose cottage-style home is completely surrounded by a moat of lakewater. "They'd hit the sandbags and it would spray the windows."
Environment Canada forecaster Doug Lindquist called weather in the next week "a much more benign pattern."
But he warned gusts of up to 60 km/h could occur as relatively mild thunderstorms roll through.
A few days ago, Morrey was enjoying coffee at the kitchen table beside his front window when a beaver coasted by less than a metre away. Families of Canada geese and ducks swim in his driveway as well as those of many of his neighbours on Hilliam Frontage Road.
"My back is so damn sore," said Morrey, who has placed hundreds of bags, stacked six or seven levels high in a bid to protect his home from waves.
Officials at the B.C. River Forecast Centre said the lake has peaked within centimetres of its 1972 high, surpassing levels reached in 1997 and 1999.
Further east, at Magna Bay, Joyce and Elmer Boe are also nervously watching the big lake, infamous for its squalls and storms.
Their quaint home on the main road through Magna Bay sits like an island near the lakeshore. Joyce was busy Wednesday morning baking her locally renowned cinnamon buns.
The couple, who retired here in 1995 from Vancouver, have water and power, while they rely on a porta-potty normally utilized for a cabin beside them.
But any wave 15 centimetres or higher threatens to wash over their retaining wall, across their porch and into their home — bringing their relatively normal life to a wet end.
Storms are not the only concern. A few days ago, one resident said a television news crew motored past, creating a breaking wave that lapped against siding and knocked down sandbags.
Even boats in the middle of the lake create waves that eventually end up hitting the shoreline and threaten fragile walls.
Robyn Cyr, a spokewoman with Columbia-Shuswap Regional District, said the district, B.C. Parks and some private operators have closed off their launches.
But the local government has no power to restrict boat traffic. It can only remind boaters of the havoc they're causing.
"It takes out people's sandbags and goes into their houses," Cyr said.
A few doors down from Larry Morrey's place at Scotch Creek, neighbour Gord Henderson started sandbagging a week and a half ago. His wall of sandbags, more than a metre tall, was stacked atop a 60-centimetre retaining wall.
It's now completely underwater.
"The problem now is waves and debris, logs that come by," said Henderson.
Like Morrey, Henderson's siding is fully exposed to the lake and its storms. His garage floor is under 10 centimetres or more of water.
The retiree and his wife recently utilized a canoe tied up between the house and road to bring in groceries, as well as to float sandbags over to the now submerged sandbag wall.
Also at Hilliam Frontage Road, a development on leased land from Little Shuswap Indian reserve, the water around Mary Annett's home is too deep to wade — it requires a swim or boat ride to get to her porch.
"The boats on the weekend killed us," she said.
Lake water poured into her basement, through open windows and doors.
But friends helped empty its contents and she said she's not overly concerned.
The regional district has distributed 200,000 sandbags and another 100,000 are on the way. In some cases, residents have shared the load.
Elmer Boe said a local hairdresser who she didn't know pulled up and started filling and piling sandbags.
"She just came in and started filling bags. Holy man, was she a hard worker."
* * *
No official estimates on number of flooded properties
Columbia-Shuswap Regional District won’t estimate how many lakeside homes and cabins have been flooded by Shuswap Lake.
But a commercial photographer who flew and photographed all developed lakeshore areas Sunday and Tuesday believes it could be 1,000 or more if basements and outbuildings are included.
While creek blowouts near Sicamous have captured attention due to their violence and subsequent evacuation of residents, slow-motion damage from the lake’s gradual rise is evident from the air in many lakeshore areas, said Ellen Atkin who placed her images for sale on the Internet.
“There’s some houses under water — collapsed stuff,” she said.
Aside from hard-hit Sicamous, Atkin said the most impacted areas are at Mara Lake and Grindrod on Shuswap River. But there are patches of properties flooded throughout.
“It’s everywhere there’s cabins.”
CSRD emergency spokeswoman Robyn Cyr said the regional district will know more in the coming days and weeks. As lake levels drop, the focus will be on recovery.
Homeowners who are hard hit will apply for disaster assistance. Flooding is not typically covered by home insurance.
“They’ll apply for financial assistance from the province to get their lives back to normal,” she said.
Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2013 Glacier Media Inc.
NOTE: To post a comment in the new commenting system you must have an account with at least one of the following services: Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, OpenID. You may then login using your account credentials for that service. If you do not already have an account you may register a new profile with Disqus by first clicking the "Post as" button and then the link: "Don't have one? Register a new profile".
The Kamloops Daily News welcomes your opinions and comments. We do not allow personal attacks, offensive language or unsubstantiated allegations. We reserve the right to edit comments for length, style, legality and taste and reproduce them in print, electronic or otherwise. For further information, please contact the editor or publisher, or see our Terms and Conditions.