Life is almost back to normal following the biggest summer storm of the season to hit southwestern B.C. The overnight thunderstorm featured lightning and significant amounts of rainfall in many places.
Whistler collected 17.9mm on Thursday, Aug. 29 while Pemberton’s official tally was 8.1mm and in Squamish a total of 65.9mm of rainwater was collected at the community airport. The storm really picked up steam just after midnight and continued through Friday’s early hours.
The most significant impact of the storm in the Sea to Sky area was felt north and east of Pemberton. The Pemberton Portage Road was covered by a debris torrent near Gates Lake. The road was cleaned up soon after it happened.
Robie Thorn, president of Lillooet Lake Estates, said a debris torrent streamed down Catalina Creek at 1:30 a.m. following a period of heavy rain, thunder and lightning. Thorn’s house is close to the creek so he said he took refuge with a neighbour who lives farther away from the creek.
“It was a rumbling noise and we didn’t know what it was to begin with,” said Thorn as he described the approaching slide. “It came fairly close to our property.”
Thorn said the slide took out a canoe rack and the canoes that were on it. He also said one vehicle is believed to have been swept into Lillooet Lake.
“There was no injuries, loss of life or residential property,” said Thorn.
Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) emergency program manager Ryan Wainwright confirmed that the forest service road that passes through Lillooet Lake Estates was closed by the slide. Once experts determined there wasn’t a risk of more material coming down the path of the stream, crews were sent in to clear the debris.
“It had to be assessed by a geotechnical specialist from Forest, Lands and Natural Resources Operations first,” said Wainwright. “That happened at about eight o’clock in the morning until about 11. That involved an aerial survey all the way to the top of the drainage and involved a ground survey as well.”
Once it was determined there wasn’t a significant risk of another debris torrent Wainwright said an excavator and a rock truck started removing the debris on the road and around the bridge over Catalina Creek.
Wainwright said the road was reopened late Friday.
“The creek is still out of its channel below the road,” said Wainwright. “Over the weekend we’ll be putting together a plan to restore the creek to its channel.”
There was a similar event on Catalina Creek in 2010. Thorn said an engineer told him this latest incident was smaller with about 10 to 15 thousand cubic metres of material coming down through Lillooet Lake Estates. The 2010 event was estimated to have involved 20 thousand cubic metres of debris.