Local flood response goes high-tech

Scott Altwasser, with the Village of Lumby, tries out an automated sandbagging machine Wednesday. - Richard Rolke/Morning Star
Scott Altwasser, with the Village of Lumby, tries out an automated sandbagging machine Wednesday.
— image credit: Richard Rolke/Morning Star

An assembly line approach could help hold back raging flood waters.

North Okanagan Emergency Management has gained access to a provincially owned sandbag machine and it is currently stationed in Lumby.

“Historically, Duteau Creek is the first to flood,” said Brent Watson, NOEM manager, during a trial run Wednesday.

The Sandbagger with a motorized auger is an automated sandbag-filling system that can fill four sandbags simultaneously.

It requires four people to hold the bags in place and one person to operate the front-end loader to keep the two-cubic-yard machine full.

The manufacturer’s specifications say the machine can fill a maximum of 1,600 bags per hour and that is considerably more than the traditional shovel method.

“That (shovel) is very labour intensive which creates fatique,” said David Manson, Lumby’s public works superintendent.

Village employees took turns trying the Sandbagger out during the trial.

“It’s definitely easier than a shovel and faster,” said John Rankle, a mechanic.

By maximizing labour, the machine can provide a quicker response during floods.

“Time is of the essence,” said Watson.

It’s not known how long the provincially owned machine will be in the North Okanagan before it gets deployed elsewhere, but it could prove vital if flooding occurs.

“Now is the time to be prepared,” said Watson.

The Sandbagger will mainly be used to protect public infrastructure, but there is a chance that it could assist residents concerned about their homes.

“We’d like to have some on stock and ready to go,” said Manson.

North Okanagan communities could eventually buy their own machines, but the $20,000 U.S. price tag could be a stumbling block.

“In this fiscal environment, that’s really tough,” said Watson.


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