A geotechnical assessment of Friday afternoon’s mudslide in Sunnybrae picks up again Saturday morning by helicopter. Image credit: Jim Elliot
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A geotechnical assessment of Friday afternoon’s mudslide in Sunnybrae picks up again Saturday morning by helicopter. Image credit: Jim Elliot

UPDATE: Theory emerges on landslide cause

The evacuation order remains in effect but the road is now open 24 hours a day

  • Apr. 7, 2017 4:00 p.m.

Updated 8:30 a.m., Monday, April 11

A preliminary theory on the cause of the landslide which destroyed two homes in Sunnybrae has emerged.

“The current theory is that it was a naturally occurring event that was the result of groundwater and oversaturation of the existing soils,” said Shuswap Emergency Program EOC Director Ryan Nitchie.

Nitchie said more details would be made available when Westrek Geotechnical had completed their formal report, which he expects to take a few weeks.

Slope slippage in the slide area is still being tracked with monitoring devices.

Sunnybrae-Canoe Point Road is now open to single-lane alternating traffic 24 hours a day but Nitchie said that is subject to change if weather conditions or slope stability degrade further.

The evacuation order for the four properties remains in effect and homeowners have not been allowed to return to the property yet due to concerns with the stability of the slope.

Updated 2:35 p.m., Saturday, April 8

Sunnybrae-Canoe Point Road will re-open to single-lane alternating traffic as of approximately 3 p.m. today, Saturday, April 8.

A geotechnical assessment of the slope in the 4400 block of Sunnybrae-Canoe Point Road has been completed and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure crews are working to clear debris. The road will be open to traffic from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Motorists should expect delays.

Ryan Nitchie, Emergency Operations Centres Director for the Shuswap Emergency Program, says the status of the road will remain in place indefinitely.

“The ministry is still looking at the area and doing assessments on the groundwater in the area. While this monitoring is ongoing, there are still concerns, which is why the road is going to be monitored and controlled with flaggers and as single-lane only.”

The evacuation order remains in effect for four properties located along Sunnybrae-Canoe Point Road as a result of the landslide. Those evacuated are being assisted by the Shuswap Emergency Program and other agencies. Their immediate needs have been met.

A charitable fundraising drive has been started for the Blair family who lost their home and possessions in the slide. Amber (Mackie) Blair and her son Ryley were in the home when the slide hit, and sustained minor injuries. Her husband, Darin Blair, was in Nova Scotia on other family matters at the time.

“They are shook up pretty good, but they are safe and that’s all that matters,” says Darin, who will be returning to Salmon Arm on Sunday. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen or what we are going to do, but right now I just want to put my arms around them.”

The family lost all their possessions including their vehicle and had no rental or tenant insurance.

The link to the GoFund Me page for people to make online donations is here.

“We would really like to help out our friend and her family who are some of the most caring and giving people we know,” writes Teena Billey, who spearheaded the fundraising page.

“This family is involved in with our 1st Salmon Arm Scouts and Shuswap Football Family. Anyone able to help, every little bit is greatly appreciated, thank you for the help and support!”

Updated 9:40 a.m., Saturday, April 8

Sunnybrae-Canoe Point Road remains closed and an evacuation order in effect while government officials assess a mudslide that occurred Friday afternoon.

Ryan Nitchie, Emergency Operations Centre director with the Columbia Shuswap Regional District’s Shuswap Emergency Program, said Saturday morning, April 8, that further geotechnical evaluation of the slide area is being conducted today by helicopter, and the evacuation of four residences, addresses 4459, 4467, 4473 and 4487 Sunnybrae-Canoe Point Road, will continue. The road will also remain closed until it is determined to be safe to reopen.

The residences were formally evacuated around 10 p.m. Friday, April 7, following a large mudslide that occurred around 4 p.m. Two homes in the slide’s path were moved off their foundations. Nitchie said both homes were occupied with two residents in each.

“The residents in one home suffered some minor injuries,” said Nitchie. “They were taken by ambulance to hospital and we understand they’ve been subsequently released. The other two occupants of the other home suffered no injuries.”

CSRD fire services from Tappen and Sunnybrae were first to arrive on scene, and did a tactical evaluation of the area. It was found that two other neighbouring homes near the slide area weren’t occupied. At this point, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure was contacted, and the Emergency Operations Centre went into effect.

Nitchie said an initial geotechnical site assessment was conducted at 7 p.m. by MOTI staff and Kevin Turner of Westrek Geotechnical Services.

“They did some work by the lake and went out on a boat and tried to look at the slide path, and then they went up above to see what was kind of happening above the slide area,” said Nitchie. “From that initial assessment it was determined the slope stability was just too unstable to do any sort of work in the slide area or on the road. So it was elected to keep the road closed overnight depending on a further, more detailed assessment which is going to be ongoing this morning.”

Nitchie said emergency support services have been offered to the evacuees, and that roadblocks will remain in place until further notice.

“We’re asking all the residents who are on the east side of the slide just to stay at their properties,” said Nitchie. “If there is any sort of emergency, if they require emergency services, they can call 911.

“There has been a protocol set up with BC Ambulance to provide assistance if there are any medical emergencies on that side, and that is on cooperation with Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue.”

Nitchie is encouraging the public to go to the CSRD website for updates, saying information will be provided throughout the day.


UPDATED 5:30 p.m. April 7

Shuswap emergency personnel are in Sunnybrae where a mudslide has damaged two homes and sent two residents to hospital.

At 4:28 p.m. on Friday, April 7, Scan BC reported that Shuswap emergency crews are responding to a mudslide on Sunnybrae-Canoe Point Road.

The slide is reportedly one kilometre from the end of Hacking Road and was violent enough to tear one home right off it’s foundation. A second home was also damaged by the slide.

Occupants of nearby homes have since been evacuated.

Darin Blair and his wife and 11-year-old son were in one of the two residences impacted by the mudslide. He is currently in Nova Scotia where he has been caring for family. He said he found out about the incident through Facebook, and is now waiting by the phone to hear again from his wife. She and their son were at the house when the slide occurred. He said she was able to call him before she was taken to hospital, confirming she and their son got out of the home OK, but the family’s dog was killed in the slide.

“I don’t know what to do, pacing the floor waiting for a call from my wife,” said Blair, who has lived at the Sunnybrae residence for about a year. “It’s scary, it really is.”

Blair said he has no insurance and that he and his family has lost all their worldly possessions.

“I was in Fort McMurray when the fire happened,” said Blair. “And then this… it’s just one thing after another, you know what I mean? Only in this mudslide, now I’ve lost everything.

“I just want to know how my wife is doing… it doesn’t matter, we’ll survive, we always do, but it’s just the fact that where is my family going to go tonight?”

Traffic is blocked through the area.

Paramedics confirm that two ambulances responded to the slide and that two residents were take to Salmon Arm with non-life-threatening injuries. One was reportedly a woman who suffered a head injury.

More information will be provided as it becomes available. We have a reporter on scene.

Related: Sunnybrae slide area concerning

In October, Sunnybrae Canoe-Point Road resident Jim Anderson told the Salmon Arm Observer he was concerned with number of large rocks rolling down Bastion Mountain.

Since the spring of 2016 Anderson said three sizeable rockslides which have reached the road.

A Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) spokesperson said the rockfall in May resulted in a road closure until geotechnical engineers could investigate.

Sunnybrae has been an active landslide area in the past. A large slide in Dec. 1959 covered approximately 300 metres of what is now Sunnybrae-Canoe Point Road, temporarily isolating eight families.

On Nov. 23, 1983, Scottie and Lois Dobie were killed when a 150-ton boulder, 15 feet in diameter and six-feet thick, came thundering down Bastion Mountain and crushed the bedroom of their Sunnybrae home.

The slide was blamed on water running through the mountain’s face, freezing and thawing and causing the rock to move.

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Image Credit: Jim Elliot

Image Credit: Jim Elliot

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