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No heat or potable water in Princeton, B.C., as locals brace for freezing temperatures after flood

Chance of flurries and -9 C overnight forecast for hard-hit Similkameen community

A car almost completely submerged in front of a flooded house and street.

A car in Princeton was almost completely submerged by noon on Monday. The community is scrambling to get potable water and natural gas to homes in the wake of a devastating flood that swamped half the town.

Photo:  CBC / Tom Popyk


The town of Princeton, B.C., remains in a state of emergency after days of relentless rain caused extreme flooding, and now, the scramble is on to get heat and water working in the community again as the mercury drops and freezing temperatures add to the emergency situation.

Half the town is under water after extreme rains pushed the Tulameen and Similkameen rivers to overflow their banks and dikes Monday, forcing people to evacuate 295 properties and creating a state of emergency in the community of 3,000 located 190 kilometres east of Vancouver.

Three hundred properties are still on evacuation alert.

Mayor Spencer Coyne told CBC Tuesday that a gas line that supplies the natural gas needed to heat local homes broke Monday. On Tuesday morning, the water system stopped working.

Environment Canada is predicting a 60 per cent chance of rain or snow flurries in Princeton Tuesday and a low of -9 C overnight.

Coyne told Early Edition  (new window)host Stephen Quinn the gas line will not be repaired in time. He said municipal crews were trying to get water pressure back Tuesday so they can fill local reservoirs and get water to residents.

We have more pumper trucks coming in today, so we'll have an entire fleet of pumper trucks that will be keeping that flow in as best we can, said Coyne, who described the situation as hectic.

Our number one priority right now is trying to get water back up and running, he said.

A swollen river next to a road.

A swollen Similkameen River outside Princeton, B.C., on Nov. 15, 2021.

Photo: Submitted by Misty Oceanna

Princeton will need provincial support, money: mayor

According to Gordon Swan, the chair of School District 58, Princeton schools are currently closed and being assessed for damage. 

Some of the district's school buses were also used Monday to help move evacuees out of Merritt, which is located about 90 kilometres north and had to evacuate 7,000 of its residents from the city.

Coyne said water levels have started to drop in the rivers, but he is unsure how rebuilding will start.

He said the dikes and infrastructure along the river will also need to be assessed for damage, and experts may need to be brought in from elsewhere to help determine what else needs to be done to rebuild the town and how to do it.

He told CBC water levels were about 150 centimetres higher than the previous worst flood in memory, which hit the town in 1995. Some people, according to Coyne, have almost 2½ metres of water in the downstairs of their homes.

The mayor thinks his municipal team will need to call on the provincial government to help with the aftermath.

We're going to need support, and somehow, we're going to need money, he said.


Bridgette Watson (new window) · CBC News

Bridgette Watson is an associate producer and writer at CBC Vancouver. You can reach her at Bridgette.Watson@cbc.ca or @Beewatz on Twitter.

With files from The Early Edition