When we put a story up online Thursday afternoon, Jan. 30, about a Pineapple Express storm that was due to hit the Cowichan Valley starting the next day, we had no idea of the severity of the weather that storm was about to bring in.
We’re sure that nobody else did either. But between Friday and Saturday morning, that storm brought some of the most severe flooding we’ve ever seen to the Cowichan Valley, and people will be dealing with the aftermath for months to come.
The mayor of Lake Cowichan, Rod Peters, said he hasn’t seen flooding this bad in at least 15 years. Others in the community pegged it at decades. Homes, parks, roads and more felt the brunt of the storm.
We were impressed with the response from our local governments and emergency personnel as the storm morphed into something unusual. Firefighters and other emergency crews were out during the height of the bad weather Friday night, going door to door in evacuation zones, making sure people got out safely. It’s telling that there have been no reports of deaths or serious injuries from the flooding.
The Cowichan Valley Regional District declared a state of emergency, and did a good job of disseminating information as it came in and conditions changed, through regular updates on the front page of their website. What major roads were closed? They had that information. Was there somewhere people who were flooded out could go to get information on next steps for clean-up? They set up a centre and let people know. Were some of the area parks closed? They had that information for people, too. Where could people evacuated in the middle of the night go? They had the answer.
And of course there are all of the ordinary people who stepped up to help neighbours and strangers affected by the storm.
Now comes the job of clean-up, and we must continue to pull together. For those of us who weren’t flooded out, it’s business as usual, but for others basic needs are an issue. Septic fields failed. Water may not be safe to drink. And then there’s just the mess that only a torrent of muddy, debris-riddled water flowing through can cause.
The state of local emergency remains in place in the CVRD, and they are hoping we’ve seen the last of the flooding, but it depends on the upcoming forecast.
And fortunately for those whose homes and businesses were flooded there is provincial funding that can be applied for.
Let’s be as good at the flood aftermath as we were during the emergency.