Traffic is snarled along a major artery in Kelowna due to what police say is a suspicious object they worry could be a bomb.
Highway 97 through the city is closed in both directions at Cooper and Hardy roads, except for emergency vehicles, according to DriveBC.
The 800-metre stretch of the highway through Kelowna is where many major malls and restaurants in the Central Okanagan municipality are located, including the Orchard Plaza Shopping Centre.
It is also a main road to the Kelowna International Airport (YLW) and to West Kelowna, Penticton and other cities in the South Okanagan.
Const. Mike Della-Paolera says police were alerted to “something on the ground that was a little suspicious” early in the afternoon Monday.
“It appeared to us to be an explosive device, but we are unsure if it is,” he said.
Della-Paolera says the RCMP explosives unit in the Lower Mainland viewed pictures of the object and “were concerned with what they saw.”
He says a team has been dispatched to assess and dispose of the device, and until then, the area is closed to the public “for the remainder of the day, probably.”
“It’s going to be a long day. The traffic is going to be terrible.”
Della-Paolera expects the portion of Highway 97 will be closed for at least four to five hours, which he says is bound to have a serious effect on local businesses.
“It’s going to impact businesses along Harvey, but we have to do it for public safety,” he said. “Unfortunately, these situations happen, and we can’t take any chances.”
In the meantime, Kelowna RCMP say they have called in extra resources, including bylaw officers and firefighters, to stand by and help get the traffic flowing as best they can.
Kelowna is Canada’s fastest-growing metropolitan area over the last five years, with its population increasing by 14 per cent to more than 222,000 in 2021, according to Statistics Canada.