One member of a tight-knit community along the Peace River that was evacuated when a slow-moving landslide began inching down the hillside above it says feelings are mixed about news that almost everyone can finally return home.
Gord Pardy says some people have been “going with the flow” and are happy to get home, while others are ready to move out of the hamlet of Old Fort, B.C.
“Some people are scared now, they have their houses for sale already,” Pardy said.
“Us, well, we couldn’t wait to get out of that hotel,” he said, referring to the tiny accommodation that he shared with his wife, daughter and their pets — two dogs and a bird — for four weeks.
The entire Old Fort community was evacuated Oct. 7, one week after the steep hillside above it began to slump, causing the only road into town to buckle and knocking down power lines as it moved toward properties along the banks of the Peace River below Fort St. John.
Landslide experts warned that the landslide could either stop, take a catastrophic turn or slowly displace the community. Residents were evacuated while scientists with the province and Westrek Geotechnical Services monitored the slide.
Evacuation orders for some properties were lifted late last month, and the Peace River Regional District said Sunday that only one remains in place. Residents of three other homes are asked to be ready to leave again at any moment.
Pardy said the single remaining evacuation order covers a property that was destroyed by the slide.
“That’s the poor family that lost their house,” Pardy said.
The provincial Ministry of Transportation said a semi-permanent road has been built over the existing slide.
An automated monitoring system is providing continuous updates on movement in the area and an operating protocol is in place to respond if there are any concerns, the Ministry said.
Transportation Minister Claire Trevena thanked community members for their patience.
“We know this has been a stressful time for people who had to be evacuated, and I’m happy to hear the road is in place and people are able to return to their homes, now that it is safe to do so,” Trevena said in a statement.
Pardy said the experience has been difficult for community members, many of whom believe the threat of the landslide was overstated and didn’t justify their being forced from their homes.
“Tomorrow we’re going to start asking the question ‘why?’ We’re going to ask the question, what if something takes the road out again? What is going to be the plan? Because the plan can’t be a mass evacuation again.”
— by Amy Smart in Vancouver
The Canadian Press