Kitamaat Village evacuated after 3 days without power due to near record snowfall
Residents had to cut through fallen trees with chainsaws to gain road access
B.C.'s Haisla First Nation ordered the evacuation of Kitamaat Village and its 800 residents on Saturday night, three days after the community lost power following a major snowstorm.
Many residents are staying at the Kitimat Riverlodge Leisure Centre, about 15 kilometres north in the town of Kitimat.
Others are staying with family and friends.
The small towns of Kitimat and Terrace were hit with heavy snow earlier this week — nearly two metres of snow from a Pineapple Express weather system was dumped on the region.
The record for a 24-hour snowfall, set on Feb. 5, 1961, was 112 cm. Weather officials say Kitimat came close with 109 cm of snow in a 24-hour period.
Evacuation ordered over Facebook
In a notice posted to Facebook on Saturday, Haisla First Nation chief councillor Ellis Ross warned of a short timeline for the Sunday morning evacuation — the road in and out of the village would be open for just three hours.
"If you have the means to get to town or somewhere else besides Kitamaat Village, please be gone before 8 a.m. PT. Anytime after 8 a.m., don't even try. The crews will be working and there will be no traffic allowed," the notice said.
Resident Robin Rowland said the evacuation was complicated by downed trees, power lines and heavy snow.
Residents had to use chainsaws to gain access to the winding road between the village and Kitimat, he said. The road was reported as barely passable due to fallen trees and snow.
Drone video of snow-bound Kitimat
More than 5,000 people in the region were left without power after the record snowfall, though many residents had their power restored within a few days.
Resident Teresa Cline says the aftermath of the snowfall is something to see:
"Just huge snow-covered trees laying on power lines," she said. "It looks like it will be a real mess to clean up. Those B.C. Hydro guys are going to be busy here. I've heard there are crews from other places that have come in to help us."
"Places that haven't been plowed, it must be at least five or six feet deep, and the snow banks are up to 10 to 12 feet tall after they've been plowed."
The District of Kitimat opened its Emergency Operations Centre on Saturday to coordinate a major snow clearing effort involving municipal crews and private contractors.
Residents were being asked to stay off the roads as municipal crews cleared streets. The district warned in a statement that venturing out and getting stuck would hinder snow removal.
Search and rescue personnel in snowmobiles were placed on standby, ready to mobilize if necessary in order to access difficult-to-reach homes.
The district was also asking people to conserve water due to power outages which were having an impact on the town's pumping system.
- An earlier version of this story said the snowfall in Kitamaat broke a record. In fact, the snowfall missed the record in a 24 hour period by 3cm.Feb 09, 2015 10:31 AM PT