WATCH: Residents forced from their homes by rising flood waters on the Tseshaht First Nation were allowed to return Monday as the Somass River dropped from dangerously high levels. The damage in the waters wake though is just beginning to be cleaned up. Skye Ryan reports.
Bob Cole waded into his front yard Monday, which is now underwater, to tie up his home’s propane tank before it floated away in Sproat Lake’s flood waters.
“Not a very safe situation,” he said while securing the tank.
His Alberni Valley community is beginning a massive cleanup of flooded out homes and even wharves washed away down the river. Torrential weekend rainfall led Sproat Lake to spill its banks, turned the Sproat River into racing rapids and pushed everything in it down into the Somass River, where five homes of the Tseshaht First Nation had to be evacuated.
“You start to panic when it comes up as fast as it did this time,” said Sproat Lake resident Terri St. Jacques.
Pumps are now pouring water out of St. Jacques crawlspace as she tries to prevent the damage her home suffered in last year’s flood.
“It’s horrendous,” she said. “You’re so helpless, you’re just so completely helpless there’s nothing you can do.”
“You can handle it every 15 or 20 years,” said Bob Cole. “But now it’s three out of the last four years in a row.”
It’s an exhaustion shared by the Tseshaht First Nation where officials have just learned flood waters they fought with sandbags all weekend long will likely be going even higher by Tuesday. That means Monday’s return of evacuees to their homes may have to be reversed in a day’s time.
“I’m a little nervous,” said Tseshaht Emergency Operations Director Hugh Braker. “I was feeling good this morning. I thought ,wow, it’s it’s all over this year we can deal with that. But now with the River Forecast Centre, I’m more nervous right now,” said Braker.
So sandbags have been filled by the hundreds to prepare for the next big storm that’s on the way.
“The watershed cannot take any more water it’s filled to capacity, the soil is saturated,” said Braker. “We just can’t take anymore.”
Yet as much as 50 millimetres of rain is still on the way.
“It scares you,” said Terri St. Jacques. “Just want to say please no, give us some time,” she said looking up at the clouds.
Bob Cole says a long-term plan to stop the flooding needs to happen. Sproat Lake residents are calling for Catalyst to remove more plates from their Sproat Lake Weir since less water is being used now at the pulp mill.