Life for people who need to travel to and from the South Okanagan should return to normal today.
Highway 97 north of Summerland was closed from Saturday until late Tuesday, but officials from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said they were hoping to have the road open to traffic by Wednesday afternoon.
Reopening is dependant on the progress made in the effort to remove debris from the rockslide.
“Now that the hill is more accessible, we have been able to increase the number of rock scalers from seven to 10,” according to a press release from the Ministry of Transportation. “Scalers moved further north on the slope this morning to prepare for further blasting, and we now have two excavators and a rock hammer on site to keep building the access up the slope. Our maintenance contractor, Argo, has mobilized large off-highway rock trucks to remove as much material as soon as possible after blasting.”
Once the debris is removed, crews will reassess the slope to determine what other steps need to be taken.
Any positive change will come to a relief to Megan Potter, an organizer for the Okanagan College Student Union at the Penticton campus. She travelled to Kelowna last week and was marooned.
“I am stuck here today,” said Potter, Monday. “We are monitoring events and postponing activities (on campus) and I am trying to make it known to students and staff that I am here to answer any questions and concerns that they have.”
Potter says that for some classes midterm exams have already started and that some classes have gone digital to stay on track.
It was a similarly tough situation for people who reliant on the route for work.
“We are not making any of our appointments at this time, because all of our freight comes from Vancouver, Calgary or Edmonton. They are on schedule, but we can’t maintain our schedule,” said Les, a dispatcher at Van-Kam Freightways Ltd, who noted the alternate routes added several hours to their day, not to mention increased fuel costs.
While most were barred from the route, emergency services still were able to make their way through.
“BC Emergency Health Services response to patients has not been adversely impacted by the road closure on Hwy 97 near Summerland,” said Shannon Miller, communications officer with BC Emergency Health Services.
“Paramedics responding to patients and patients needing transport to hospital are being guided through the road closure area.”
BCEHS dispatch centres work closely with provincial road crews to coordinate our safe response to patients.
“Whatever the road conditions, protecting the safety of our patients, the public and our employees is paramount,” she said.
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