Cowichan residents take stock of flood damage as volunteers step up to help

Cowichan residents take stock of flood damage as volunteers step up to help

Rain fell outside Gary Norris’ Halalt First Nation home Monday, and he said he couldn’t help but worry the flood that’s made his home still uninhabitable a week later could happen again.

“The stress level goes sky high you know, the worry about what’s going to happen this time you know,” said Gary Norris, a member of the Halalt First Nation.

The Chemainus area First Nation was one of many communities in the Cowichan Valley gutting drywall in homes, pumping out basements and trying to rebuild Monday, in the wake of unprecedented floodwaters that swept through in an atmospheric river a week earlier.

“It was a bit overwhelming, hard to take in at first,” said Joseph Norris, a member of the Halalt First Nations who remained evacuated from his Halalt home, which was shoulder deep in water.

“It’s pretty expensive, I’m not too sure how much it’s going to cost,” he said.

According to the Cowichan Valley Regional District, 157 properties were identified as badly damaged by the storm, as of Monday. The State of Emergency has been extended as recovery efforts continued.

“It’s really pretty sad, it makes you feel kind of helpless,” said Cowichan Valley resident Jim Prest.

So, Prest volunteered to help clean up the damage at Russell Farm Market, which was recovering from being under five feet of floodwater. The market has been closed since November 15th and volunteers have been back day after day to clean, to help it re-open.

“Friday, I had 21 people. It was overwhelming,” said Russell Farms Market owner France Bournazel.

“When you see the destruction and everything, just to help somebody out it makes you feel good,” said Prest.

That spirit has happened across the valley, according to BC Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth.

“The work happening with the Halalt and Penelakut First Nations is a great example. All partners are working together with the Cowichan Valley Regional District to quickly assess damage and make sure that evacuees have a safe place to stay,” Farnworth said Monday.

Joseph Norris said the worst of times, was bringing out the best in people.

“here are people who have been going day and night for whole houses to get back to normal,” said Norris.

The joint sense of loss was also bringing the community together to demand they are protected from the next flood. One they say is no longer an if, but a when.

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Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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