Grand Forks residents frustrated with emergency preparedness plans after May floods

Residents of Grand Forks, B.C., complain they were not informed about an evacuation order as water levels rose last month and did not receive enough assistance with flood prevention.

RV owner Brian Thate didn’t find out about the evacuation order until after his property was flooded

Thousands forced from homes in B.C. due to historic floods last month. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Frustration is growing among residents of Grand Forks, B.C., who complain they were not informed about an evacuation order as water levels rose last month and did not receive enough assistance with flood prevention.

More than 4,500 people were forced from their homes by flooding in May, and Grand Forks was one of the hardest-hit areas. The evacuation order was issued on May 10, but some residents say they were never told about it until too late.

"I personally had no warning at all. It would've been nice if somebody could've stopped by," said Brian Thate, who owns the Riviera RV Park off Highway 3.

Around 2:30 a.m., water broke though a beam on his property and rose up past his door steps.

He helped wake up and evacuate some of the residents living on his property, many of whom he says are in their 70s and 80s.

"We found out later that they had posted an evacuation notice on the regional district website," he told Chris Walker, the host of CBC's Daybreak South.

"But at that time, nobody had stopped by to visit us to give us a personal update or maybe some direction as to what we should be doing."

Residents retrieve their belongings from the flooded Ruckle neighbourhood of Grand Forks, B.C. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

'Ways we can improve'

Thate said he is worried the emergency responses to May's flooding indicates an overall lack of preparedness.

"I'm more concerned about the future," he said. "[The officials] kind of got blindsided by this event as well."

Earlier this week, Premier John Horgan was in Grand Forks to announce more relief funding for families hit by flooding.

Horgan promised to match every dollar raised by the Red Cross and said a new fund will give an additional $2,800 per household for long-term recovery.

Frances Maika, an information officer with the emergency operations centre in the Kootenays, says local government has a critical role during emergencies.

"We're going to look at all the ways we can improve," she said.  

About 1,600 evacuation notices were posted to doors along a 300 kilometre stretch of the river shore in an eight hour period.

"That gives you just a picture of the size of the task," she said. 

Maika was at a townhall meeting in Grand Forks this week about the flood recovery process and next steps.

"There's a lot of things we can learn post event and we will be having an operational review," she said.

Read more from CBC British Columbia.

Residents of Grand Forks, B.C. complain that they were not informed about an evacuation order as water levels rose last month and did not received enough assistance with flood prevention. 13:30

With files from Daybreak South

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