‘Everyone’s on edge’: North Cowichan residents watch for flooding as river levels rise

'Everyone's on edge': North Cowichan residents watch for flooding as river levels rise

Stepping down to the Chemainus River to get a closer look Monday brought Norman Thomas some relief.

The high water hadn’t broken the river’s banks yet, and the Halalt First Nation member is one of hundreds who’ve been losing sleep over the possibility of the river flooding.

“Everyone’s on edge. Where I live, I got everything off the floor on the weekend, picked up on blocks and everything my bed, dressers, TVs, so it doesn’t get wrecked,” Thomas told CHEK News.

The river has been rising with unrelenting rain storms over the weekend and into Monday, combining with massive early snowpack melt in the mountains due to high temperatures. It’s a similar recipe that caused flooding in 2021 and 2022 that had people like Helen Joe fleeing for their lives.

“It was pretty scary when the river came rushing in at us, two years in a row,” said Joe.

“Yeah, definitely worry in our community about what’s to come. We’ve been hit hard with some pretty severe flooding in recent years, so we’re definitely keeping a close eye on how things progress over the next few days,” said North Cowichan Mayor Rob Douglas.

READ ALSO: Risk of heavy rain, flooding due to series of storms on Vancouver Island

But this round of storms is meeting its match in flood preparation like this community has never had before.

Tonnes of gravel has been removed from below the Chemainus River at the Trans-Canada Highway, and in another stretch on Chemainus Road, a long line of chest-high sandbags is forming a wall to contain the river. New culverts have been installed to redirect the water away from Halalt, and new housing is being built to replace flood-damaged homes.

“Definitely hoping that’s going to make a big difference in the next few days, and the Hesco walls, the big bags of gravel about 1 to 1.2 metres high, hoping that provides protection as well,” said Douglas.

Monday, the flood-prone Cowichan River was holding in its banks as well.

So people who live along these rivers are hoping flood mitigation measures will be enough to hold off flooding, until the rain is forecast to ease late Wednesday.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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