‘An awful lot of stress’: Cowichan flooding victims sandbag again as heavy rains drench region

'An awful lot of stress': Cowichan flooding victims sandbag again as heavy rains drench region
France Bournazel, the owner of Russell Farm Market near Chemainus, points out flooding in her parking lot as another atmospheric river drenched Vancouver Island. Jan. 12, 2022.

France Bournazel heaved sandbags into doorways Wednesday, with what she called a scary feeling of dĂ©jĂ  vu. Heavy rains were already flooding her market’s parking lot as the Chemainus river rose alongside it.

“It’s not a matter of if it’s coming, it’s more like when it’s gonna come,” said Bournazel, the owner of Russell Farm Market near Chemainus.

The market was flooded out by the last atmospheric river, as another bore down, combining this time with fast melting-snowpack.

“I’m exhausted. I am so exhausted and tired,” said Bournazel.

So was Richard Halk.

“It’s like having PTSD. Every time you hear about an atmospheric river, the anxiety builds up really fast,” said Halk.

He has lived on his Crofton farm for 60 years, and said it has never flooded out like it has in the past two years. Recent storms have torn up his market garden, destroyed his bee colonies and badly damaged the family’s trailer. The Halks are still waiting for flood relief funding from the province to make repairs.

“Just a lot of stress. An awful lot of stress dealing with it so,” said Halk.

Residents living along the Chemainus River pleaded Wednesday for the provincial and federal governments to remedy the now near-constant threat from flooding by removing gravel banks.

“We’ve got to fix the river because it’s just going to happen again,” said Halk.

“Do something. Put a dike. It’s horrible,” said Bournazel.

With the risk of flooding and fast-flowing rivers in the days ahead search and rescue groups are also urging people to stay away from river banks.

Wednesday’s atmospheric river was also expected to cause alpine snow to become unstable, increasing the risk of an avalanche , so people heading into the backcountry should stay out of avalanche terrain.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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