Cowichan residents brace for flood as soldiers sandbag the area

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WatchThe Canadian military rushed to get ahead of floodwaters in the Cowichan Valley, with soldiers laying down sandbags in the region. Skye Ryan has more.

Idena George watched nervously Tuesday as the Cowichan River rose outside her Cowichan Tribes home.

“It’s stressful. We’re getting ready for another flood,” said Idena George, a Cowichan Tribes member. “Just makes me wonder how much rain we are going to be getting.”

Floodwaters poured in from the river two weeks ago, destroying appliances and personal items. Yet as her family prepared for the water’s return Tuesday, she felt more prepared than ever.

That’s because the Canadian Armed Forces have deployed 31 soldiers to defend homes on Cowichan Tribes land.

“Oh my God, it’s unbelievable, just to have this level of help,” said George.

The 31 soldiers are the same troops who shored up homes in the Halalt and Penelakut First Nations over the weekend.

“It does have a sense of urgency because you can sort of see the levels of the water changing day by day,” said Canadian Armed Forces member, Jamila Aberle, who is based out of CFB Edmonton.

Soldiers were sandbagging by the tractor load, building barriers to keep the water out of homes and the Clem Clem longhouse, which are vulnerable to a joining of waters when the Cowichan and Koksilah rivers spill their banks.

Log jams along bridges were also being removed even as rivers rose, because the atmospheric river was forecast to collide with a king tide Wednesday, making the speed and severity of floodwaters even higher.

According to Cowichan Tribes, the previous storm’s flood caught many by surprise.

“We had no forewarning. Like it was so quick that our members had water coming into their homes,” said Cowichan Tribes Flood liaison Sabrian Elliott-Joe.

One hundred homes in Cowichan Tribes were damaged by flooding on Nov. 15. As a result, even with all the sandbagging preparations, officials are urging residents to be ready to leave their homes at short notice.

“It is very scary to think of our members stuck in a home and if we are to face a huge flood where nobody can get in or out. I would just strongly urge members to have a grab-and-go bag ready. Have all of their medications,” said Elliott-Joe.

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Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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