Last week was quite the week.
Massive flooding in BC has had devastating effects on the province. Some places got a month’s worth of rain in the space of 2 days – and southern BC is a rainy place during this time of year, so a month’s worth of rain here is a lot. Massive mudslides and flooding cut off basically every highway in southern BC, isolating the Lower Mainland from the rest of the province – and the rest of the country. Four people have been confirmed dead from mudslides and there may be more as the damage has been so extensive, officials haven’t been able to get to all the places yet to look.
This was on Sunday, so people who had been trying to travel home from wherever they’d gone for the weekend got trapped. Many of them had to sleep in their cars for several nights, as the highways on either side of them were wiped out. Hope, a little town at the east end of the Fraser Valley, had more than a thousand people stranded there for days. There were some really heart warming stories about the community of Hope coming out to help the stranded travelers, providing food, electricity to charge phones so they could communicate, places to stay. The movie theatre played movies so that bored kids had something to do.
The brewer from one of New West’s breweries, Another Beer Company, was one of the people stranded in Hope, so naturally he started a collaboration with a Hope brewery, Mountainview. The good people of Mountainview were, like so many of the people and businesses in Hope, helping out in the crisis.
There were also stranded healthcare professionals who went to work in the Fraser Canyon Hospital, which only had one doctor and four nurses working when tonnes of people injured by the mudslides (some very seriously) came in.
Beyond just the roadways being cut off, there was massive flooding that put entire communities underwater. Particularly hard hit was an area of Abbotsford known as Sumas Prairie, a large area of farmland that provides a huge amount of dairy, eggs, and other foods for BC. I did not know this until now, but apparently that area used to be Sumas Lake until the 1920s, when settlers drained it, against the wishes of the Sumas First Nation, to make farmland. There is a pump station there that keeps the water of the Fraser River from re-filling that lake and there was very serious concerns that it would get flooded and if the pump station failed, the Sumas Prairie would go from just being massively flooded to being entirely underwater – it would be a lake again. Again, the community came out and spend the night sandbagging the pump station to protect it from failure.
Even still, there is massive devastation in that area. Thousands of farm animals died and many more are in really bad shape from hypothermia from the cold water and hungry. It’s really heartbreaking. I can’t imagine what it must be like for the farmers who have spent their lives taking care of those animals to lose them like that.
Here in the Lower Mainland we have been very lucky, so far. The worst of the situation has been that in being cut off from everything east of here (both roadways and railways were unusable and are only slowly being reopened to vehicles to allow stranded people to return home and to allow emergency vehicles and those who are beginning to survey the damage through) had made people start to panic buy food, so some grocery store shelves have been cleared out. My pantry is well stocked with food for both people and cats, and I so I didn’t even need to go into a grocery store until yesterday1. The shelves were stocked – the meat and egg sections were less full than usual, but they weren’t out. Funnily enough, the only thing that they didn’t have was bagels, which was the thing that I’d gone into the store to get2. There’s also a rationing of gas to preserve it for emergency vehicles and vehicles heading out to start fixing infrastructure and securing the supply chain. We are only allowed to buy 30L of gas per trip to the gas station, but I’ve seen a few people tweeting about how people are filling up their tanks plus filling up a bunch of jerry cans, so it sounds like it’s not being enforced. Again, I’ve been lucky, as I don’t tend to drive much (I take transit to work) and I’d just filled my gas tank up a few days before the storm. Plus I drive a Smart car, so 30L will take me pretty far.
I guess the other hard thing for those of us in the Lower Mainland right now is a combination of not being able to help those communities that are so close to us (Abbotsford is just 30 minutes from New West) that are suffering3 and climate anxiety. The storm has been referred to as a 1 in 100 years storm – and the devastating heat dome we experienced this summer was described similarly. But that’s 1 in 100 years looking backwards and we know that the future is not going to be the same as the past, climate-wise. Piling this on top of nearly two years of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, Canadian society’s recent (though much belated) acknowledgement of the atrocious committed at Indian residential schools, and probably a bunch of other traumatic things that I’m forgetting at the moment4, and it’s been a bit much. And now they are calling for “a parade of storms” later this week5, so we have that to look forward to.
On Friday Health Canada announced that it had approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for 5-11 year olds – something I’ve been looking forward to for so long6 – but my brain was so overwhelmed with everything, I could barely even register it.
Oh yeah, and also someone got murdered in front of my building on Friday.
When I left for work on Friday morning, there was a police officer at my front door telling us that we weren’t allowed to leave from the front door or the side door of our building as there was a police incident on Columbia St (which is the street that our side door leads out onto). The only way we were allowed out was through our parkgate. There was police tape blocking off the walkway from our front steps down to Columbia St and it looked like they’d blocked off a couple of blocks of Columbia. By the time Scott left for work about a half an hour later, they’d widen the parameter so that my street was blocked off too – no one could get their car out of our parkade, nor could anyone in the parkade across the street take their cars out. The only way out of my building was on foot and with a police escorting you out of the blocked off area.
As it turns out, at 6:30 am, went into the coffee shop next to my building, bleeding heavily. Police were called and though there were attempts to save the victim’s life, he later died at the hospital. The area was blocked off for the entire day for the police investigation. By the next day, someone was arrested for second-degree murder and people on one of the local New West FB groups recognized the name of the guy as someone who had previously been in prison for stabbing someone to death. And yesterday that guy’s brother also got arrested for second-degree murder in the case. So that’s, um, an interesting way for brothers to bond.
It’s strange – I didn’t know any of the people involved and I didn’t see anything, but just knowing that happened right outside my building shook me up. Just a little too close to home.
By the time I got home from work, we still couldn’t get into our building without a police escort, so we decided to do the only rationale thing to do in such a situation. We went to the pub . And I may also have purchased this fabulous Christmas dinosaur at the thrift store that was next to said pub. And I don’t regret it.
- I’m also aware that we get a lot of food from the US and other parts of the whole, and that can still easily get to us. [↩]
- There was every other type of bread there except bagels and English muffins. [↩]
- Given the damage to infrastructure, there’s no way to get into the area to provide help and really the best thing we can do is not get in the way of the professionals doing the work. [↩]
- When the flood were first happening, my friend Cath said “This is our third apocalypse this year” and I was like “Floods, heat dome… what’s the third one?” and she was like “The pandemic” and I was like “Oh right! I’ve gotten so used to the pandemic after nearly two years. It’s like just background apocalypse to me at this point.” [↩]
- I was going to say “Worst. Parade. Ever”, except someone in an SUV ran over and killed and injured a bunch of people at a Santa Claus parade the other day so yeah that’s just another horrible current event to throw on the pile. [↩]
- Both because vaccinating that age group will go a long way to reducing the ability of COVID-19 to spread and because I know of lot of people with 5-11 year olds in their life who are going to feel a lot better knowing their little ones are protected. [↩]