A few years ago, our area was in very real danger of flooding, according to all the media reports and the provincial authorities. There were even town meetings in the high school gym to discuss strategies for emergency response should the dikes break. I gathered 72 hours worth of food supplies, including several packages of Cadbury mini eggs. No emergency kit, in my opinion, should be without chocolate. We made sure we had plenty of batteries for our short wave radio and flashlights, and kept the car full of gas at all times in case we needed to leave town in a hurry in search of higher ground. My husband always has our camping gear well organized, so I felt confident that we could get it together quickly if needed. I was so stressed about the possibility of flooding, it was difficult to concentrate on my job coordinating the local festival's children's day, and I made changes to our insurance policy to accommodate flooding in our house. A lot of people did. I even called my mother to ask if we could come to them 500 kms away, should disaster strike. I think she thought I was hysterical.To calm my children and myself we walked down to the river and looked at how far the water would have to rise to breach the dikes. It would have to rise an awful lot by the looks of it, and I felt better.In hindsight, I should have listened to the experienced local farm families from the get-go, who calmly smiled and said they'd believe a flood when they saw it. We never did flood that year, but it was a good test for everyone involved. This year, the water was just as high with flooding in some low-lying places outside the dikes, but the level of hysteria in the media and in the community in general was much more subdued. Our dikes had been tested and had proved worthy.
We did not flood this year and in fact, are enjoying a beautiful July so far. The water is still high as it is everywhere in our province, but without the incessant rain of June, it is gradually going down and people with basements have been able to relax a little. However, it seems that if one part of the world is enjoying good weather and calm waters, another part is experiencing the opposite. The Kootenay region near the Alberta border of British Columbia, and the stomping grounds of my youth, continue to have the wettest summer in recent memory. 'Monsoon rains' are a common term to describe their weather in the emails I have received from my parents' home, and again today I hear of recent and fierce storms in the region. Last Thursday afternoon, the rain fell so hard and so fast that the my hillside hometown of Nelson had temporary flooding in the downtown area - the storm drains just could not keep up with the amount of water rushing down the hills and into the level areas of the town. Several photos were posted on Facebook, and someone added the fact that Nelson had seen this kind of water before, back in 1973.
|Robert Neufeld of Nelson took these photos|
on the day of the flash flood
|Pulling together to push|
The water did drain into the lake before long and the town was apparently dry and open for business by the next day. Flooding, yes, but somewhat manageable. West of Nelson, however, and on the same day, a mud slide had flowed onto the road near Castlegar and there was concern about the stability of one of the slopes above the college I attended for two years. The concern was well-founded as just the week before, a large mud slide had occurred in Johnson's Landing, a small, isolated community northeast of Nelson, crushing three houses with a wall of concrete-like compressed mud carrying trees and rocks as it careened down the slope. Four people were confirmed missing and the rescue efforts were hampered by a second slide and thus a frighteningly unstable area in which to search for the missing people - a father with two daughters and a German tourist. Sadly, after a weekend of extensive searching and the best efforts of personnel, the rescue efforts were changed to recovery efforts, and although I did not expect the news to be good by Monday, it still hit me hard when I heard the cold fact that the body of the girls' father had been found. Two days later, another body had been found, and so on.
Any time something like this mudslide and flooding happens it is cause for concern, but it becomes personal when it occurs in a place you know well and where events such as this are rare. We are used to seeing footage of flash flooding and mudslides in places like Asia, but in the southeast corner of British Columbia? We are more likely to hear of people perishing in avalanches when skiing out of bounds, or from drowning in a boating accident on the many lakes in the region. The news becomes even more personal when the people involved are known and loved by people you know. That is what happened in Johnson's Landing. The slide occurred twenty-five meters from the home of a young woman I knew when she was a baby, and her parents. I found this out on the radio one morning when the young woman was interviewed - she was friends with the two missing young women who had been her neighbours and was distraught but impressively composed in the interview. I contacted members of her family and shared the story, as did others, on Facebook. Many of my friends shared my concern and we all prayed and hoped for the best outcome before we knew the worst. Then we prayed and hoped the area would be saved from more disaster from excess rain.
I hope the Kootenays have seen the last of this 'biblical weather,' as a friend called it. Next week we are all going to Nelson to attend the wedding of our niece. The guest list is quite a long one, so I hope the weather will be accommodating to all these visitors from near and far as we gather for this most happy occasion. One thing is clear however. From recent events Mother Nature has let us mere mortals know in no uncertain terms that she is in charge, and we will just have to take whatever comes and make the best of it.