British Columbia

Flooding cuts off B.C. communities

Residents of the Bella Coola Valley in B.C.'s Cariboo region are safe but stranded after a heavy rainstorm and floods walloped the region over the weekend.
An aerial view of the Bella Coola River near the community of Hagensborg, B.C. ((Submitted by Fawn Blake))

Residents of the Bella Coola Valley in B.C.'s Cariboo region are safe but stranded after a heavy rainstorm and floods walloped the region over the weekend.

Steven Waugh, the emergency program co-ordinator for the Central Coast Regional District, said 204 millimetres of rain fell between Friday night and Saturday afternoon alone.

He called it "the flood of record," saying it far exceeded the last record flood in 1968.

Waugh said the main highway going into and out of the community of Bella Coola was closed and estimated it could be months before it was completely repaired.

The area's airport was also out of service on Sunday as the heavy rainfall washed out the runways.

Waugh flew over the area Sunday to do an assessment and said the damage was staggering.

The area's airport runway was submerged after the heavy rainfall. ((Submitted by Fawn Blake))

"It was shocking, absolutely shocking how much water has come down here in such a short period of time."

He said the local communities were caught completely off-guard.

"It's a huge event. It's going to go on for a long, long time."

Waugh said the entire 100-kilometre-long Bella Coola Valley has been affected and several communities are cut off because of the flooding.

Evacuation orders have been issued for all residents in affected areas, including the entire community of Hagensborg, Waugh said.

He did not have exact numbers, but estimated 100 people in the valley were forced to flee their homes. He said hundreds more are trapped and unable to leave their communities as roads and highways are washed out by the floods.

With more rain in the forecast for Sunday evening, Waugh said the focus would be shoring up dikes in anticipation of the rainfall.

Once the rain ceases, roads in the area will need to be restored. At that time, he said, officials can turn their attention to assessing conditions and forming a plan to get supplies in and move people out.

Waugh advised area residents not to leave their homes for at least 24 hours except for emergencies.

B.C. reserve residents refuse to flee

Meanwhile, as rising flood waters forced about 75 people in an isolated community on B.C.'s central coast to flee their homes, 34 others have refused to leave.

Residents of the mainland coastal reserve of Kingcome Inlet were airlifted by helicopter to Alert Bay on Saturday.

RCMP Sgt. Phil Lue said police plan to airlift food into the tiny community on Sunday.

"The community itself is used to rising tides, water issues, but obviously this is a different situation where the water has risen higher than most of them have ever seen," he said.

"There's going to be some water damage to houses, however [they are] very, very lucky — no injuries, nobody reported missing."

Mudslide cleanup underway

A fire hydrant is almost submerged as flood waters rush through the streets of Port Hardy, B.C. ((CBC))

Meanwhile, a state of emergency has been lifted in Port Hardy on northern Vancouver Island.

The town's mayor declared a state of emergency on Friday as rising flood waters forced the closure of several roads and downed power lines left thousands of people without power.

Residents in several other north-island communities, including Holberg and Winter Harbour, were stranded because of washed-out roads.

Residents of Holberg, a tiny community of mostly forestry workers, were trapped and without electricity over the weekend but they finally got out by boat with the help of the Coast Guard.

Western Forest Products Inc. said the company will provide boat rides in and out of Holberg on a daily basis.

In Port Alice, about 30 kilometres south of Port Hardy, work crews plan to begin cleaning up from a mudslide that covered one of the town's main highways.

Heavy rains and strong winds pounded Rumble Mountain on Friday night, triggering a mudslide five metres high and 30 metres wide.

Resident Edith Chamego was ordered from her home as the mudslide hit on Friday night.

"My husband is handicapped so we didn't waste time. We moved," she said. Her neighbour's home was the only one damaged as the wall of debris landed on top of the town's major highway.

Water rushes down a residential street in Port Hardy, B.C. ((CBC))

Keir Gervais, with the Village of Port Alice, said the community is trying to figure out the best way to clear the debris off the road.

"Right now it is not a matter of rating it at any degree of danger greater than it is. It is just wanting to access where it is," Gervais said.

"Ultimately, this project is going to have numerous workers and a bunch of machinery onsite for an extended period of time and we just want to make sure before we put those people in place that their lives are safe and taken care of."

Gervais said Port Alice is working with the provincial emergency program on a recovery plan.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the Port Alice mountain where a mudslide was triggered. The mountain is Rumble Mountain, not Rubble.
    Sep 26, 2010 1:10 PM PT