British Columbia

Canadian military arriving to aid B.C.'s flood-ravaged Princeton

Canadian Forces are being deployed to help clear critical roads and infrastructure in the B.C. interior town of Princeton, while a new evacuation order was issued for an address south of the city on Wednesday evening.

Mud needs to be cleared before winter freeze as homes in nearby Tulameen remain without power

Flooding in Princeton, B.C., on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Canadian Forces are being deployed to help clear critical roads and infrastructure in the B.C. interior town of Princeton following days of urgent pleas from the city's mayor.

"Having the military show up is a huge morale boost," Mayor Spencer Coyne told CBC News.

"It helps us feel like we're not alone anymore. And that we're going to get through this OK."

The Canadian Forces say 35 soldiers with the Lord Strathcona's Horse regiment, based in Edmonton but now redeployed to Vernon B.C., to aid in disaster recovery, will arrive in Princeton mid-afternoon on Wednesday.

They'll immediately begin sandbagging and reinforcing levees before new forecast rains hit the area in the next 48 hours. Cleaning streets and homes of mud, left by last week's flooding, is also a main priority.

The platoon could be reinforced with more troops and equipment if needs increase.

Mayor Coyne formally requested military aid last weekend, and has criticized the provincial and federal response to one of the worst flooding disasters in the region on record.

"It kind of made me feel like no one was listening to us," Coyne said.

"And that's something that happens a lot to rural communities: we get ignored. So I don't know who's responsible, if it was [B.C. Minister of Public Safety] Farnworth, or if it was someone in Ottawa, doesn't matter. Thank you to them."

A house covered in mud is pictured after a flood in Princeton, B.C., on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

At least five square blocks of the city, between the downtown core and Tulameen and Similkameen rivers, were flooded by surging waters in the early morning of Nov. 15. The area remains at risk from floods, and a new evacuation order was issued for an address south of the city on Wednesday evening.

There's little that Rhonda Warner can salvage from her home.

"Everything's completely caked in mud," she told CBC Daybreak South host Chris Walker.

"I can't even open my front door. [The mud] is swollen about two feet high. It's two feet high and runs straight across my front door and window and couch. All of the floors in the house, there's not one that's level anymore." 

Furniture, clothes, cherished keepsakes and books are all damaged or destroyed.

Hundreds of volunteers have been clearing streets, going door-to-door to recover anything salvageable.

Dropping temperatures and looming winter weather is threatening to freeze sewage-tainted muck through the spring.

Snowfall, and overnight cold, prompted the mayor to issue the urgent plea for help, and reduce longer term damage.

Warner says she can only deal with this disaster day by day.

"It's devastating. I can't take any more damage, I can't take any more trauma. I really can't."

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