rockslide

Crews have been working to clear a rock slide that covers a 1.6 kilometer stretch of highway between Summerland and Peachland, and are currently blasting in the area.

Highway 97 between Summerland and Peachland is expected to remain closed at least through this morning, following a pair of rock slides Saturday.

Those slides happened on the heels of another one last Thursday morning, which dumped approximately 400 cubic metres of rock and debris on the highway between between Callan and North Beach roads, according to a statement from the Transportation Ministry.

That amount of debris would fill approximately one-sixth of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Crews spent the weekend blasting and scaling rocks in an attempt to build a pathway for machinery to get to the rock-cut slope. However, work was delayed Sunday morning after additional movement was detected at the site.

The next update on the situation is expected at noon today.

"The rock fall site remains active and ministry engineers and rock works crews are doing everything possible to work toward safe reopening of the road," the statement said.

"People's safety is our top priority, and the road will remain closed until it is safe for the travelling public.”

In the meantime, the Transportation Ministry is assessing the possibility of using the 201 Forest Service Road east of Penticton as a detour between the Central and South Okanagan to shave time off two lengthy alternate routes via the Okanagan Connector and Highway 33.

Police are warning motorists to stick to those approved alternate routes, following reports of people requiring rescue on unmaintained roads over the weekend.

“In one particular case, a woman called 911 after her full-size pickup truck became stuck in deep snow along Garnet Valley Road, which runs between Summerland and Peachland,” Kelowna RCMP spokesman Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey said in press release.

“Emergency crews were able to eventually reach the woman, who was not prepared to spend the night in her vehicle.”

The RCMP turned multiple drivers around on the back roads as they worked to reach those who were stranded, and urged them to instead used approved detours provided by Drive BC officials.

“Almost everyone headed (on back roads) told our officers that Google maps reported the roads as well-groomed and the fastest, most direct route to their destination,” added O’Donaghey.

Meanwhile, a decade-old silence echoed through Peachland over the weekend.

Just as it was in October 2008, when concerns about a possible landslide shut the highway, Peachland suddenly became the last stop on a dead-end road.

"It's very quiet, we probably don't even have five per cent as much traffic as we normally do, with just locals on the highway," said Don Wilson, who lives at the corner of Highway 97 and Renfrew Road at the south end of Peachland.

"In a way, the silence is nice, but of course this is a major inconvenience for anyone who has appointments they need to get to in Penticton," Wilson said.

Some businesses in Peachland were likely to suffer financially with the loss of through-traffic, said chamber of commerce president Rocky Rocksborough-Smith.

"I was downtown Saturday night and there didn't seem to be as much going on as there usually is," Rocksborough-Smith said.

"Some shops I'd expected would be opened were closed, either because it's so darn cold or because of the highway closure," he said.

"But, truthfully, everyone in business in Peachland just sort of hunkers down in the winter anyway, because there isn't anywhere near as much traffic compared to the summer," he said.

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