By Steve Hubrecht,
The Upper Columbia Valley is on its way back to being normal after torrential rainfall on Thursday, June 20th and Friday, June 21st caused flooding, blocked most highways in and out of the valley and prompted two local states of emergency and one local evacuation order.
The rainfall hammered the West Kootenay, the southeastern part of the East Kootenay and much of southern Alberta much harder than here, wreaking havoc in those places while largely sparing the valley.
Whats happened in the Columbia Valley is certainly manageable compared with what weve seen in other parts of the East Kootenay. We got off relatively easy, said Mainroad East Kootenay general manager Jim Conley.
Localized flooding in Fairmont and the Dutch Creek area resulted in the Regional District of East Kootenay declaring local states of emergency in both those places, followed by an evacuation order covering the Hoodoos Resort campground, Hoodoos Grill and several homes in the Dutch Creek area. The order was rescinded after two days and flooding damage in both areas was much less than many people anticipated, limited to comparatively minor repairs.
Several workers from John Wolfe Construction Co. Ltd., which runs the Baymag Inc.-owned magnesite mine near Settlers Road just south of Kootenay National Park, were rescued after being caught by the heavy rains and flooding (stay tuned for more detailed information in future issues of the The Pioneer and The Valley Echo).
But the biggest impact for most valley residents was being cutoff from Alberta and the southern part of the East Kootenay for most of Friday, June 21st and part of Saturday, June 22nd with the TransCanada highway shut near Canmore and highway 93/95 closed at the bridge near Skookumchuck. Concern quickly spread through the valley, sending resident running to gas stations and grocery stories to stock up before supplies ran out. Most local gas stations had lineups at the pumps of 40 vehicles or more on Friday afternoon and by Saturday afternoon the produce shelves at Sobeys were virtually empty.
Several people from Alberta and other parts of the East Kootenay, including a group of Grade 6 students who had been camping in the backcountry near Canal Flats, were temporarily stuck in the Upper Columbia Valley from Friday afternoon until Saturday morning, but most were able to go home by the end of the weekend.
Attention, at least in the valley, had turned to clean-up and repair by Wednesday, June 26th.
Most sites in the valley are at the stage now where we can start recovery, said Mr. Conley.
Provincial authorities have made funding available to homeowners affected by the rains and flooding through the disaster financial assistance program.
We asked Emergency Management B.C. to apply for it on behalf of Regional District of East Kootenay residents last week. We are grateful to the province for approving the funding and grateful for them to have done it so quickly, said regional district communications manager Loree Duczek. This is quite a huge announcement and comes in light of the unprecedented impacts in the East Kootenay.
Homeowners in all regional district municipalities and rural areas can apply for the funding, although not everybody and not all types of damage will qualify. Qualifying for the funding depends on what kind of impact the rains and flooding have had on individual houses. Homeowners applying for funding will deal directly with provincial authorities.