Holding her infant granddaughter, Tracey Norris nervously watched the rain fall outside her home on the Halalt First Nations home Friday.
“We have to be prepared to leave. It’s hard to sleep at night because we don’t know if we’re going to get a knock on the door at 3 a.m.,” said Tracey Norris, a member of the Halalt First Nations.
The neighbouring Chemainus River is again running high, and just days after their evacuation alert was lifted, the family of 12 has packed up their bags once more with essential items, preparing for the worst.
“Just a lot of packing, stressful and sleepless nights,” said Sonia Norris-Page a member of the Halalt First Nations.
“With the snow melting it seems to be making it worse, it seems to be making the water come up faster,” said Norris.
“The last time it happened, we barely had enough time to get our stuff in the vehicles to rush out. We barely had enough time to get our vehicles out because that’s how fast it comes up.”
In December 2021, their home was overwhelmed by water and the family was one of thousands in the Cowichan Valley affected by flood waters. So Friday, a new round of sandbagging began on Halalt, with help from a crew from Cowichan’s Khowutzun Forestry, aimed at protecting any structures under threat.
“It’s a race against the time, and if there is another king tide coming, we just want to be ahead of that,” said James Johnny, a Khowutzun employee who was filling sandbags Friday.
“It makes me feel sad for the people, like nobody should have to leave their houses,” said Marvin Campbell, another Khowutzun employee who was filling sandbags Friday.
According to Halalt’s flood response team, the rain and king tide on Dec. 27, flooded the north side of the community, so 11 homes were put on evacuation alert and one home was evacuated.
Residents have been alerted that a threat is beginning to emerge again.
“There’s about five more king tides coming yet. If we can get past those five king tides we should be okay, but we’re not past it yet,” said Daniel Norris Sr., a member of the Halalt First Nations.
“It worries us, and it’s scary since we don’t know what to expect in the middle of the night, early morning,” said Norris-Page.
So sandbagging work will continue next week as more rain, melting snow and king tides are forecast.
“Hopefully we get a couple of days of good weather,” said Johnny.
Long-term planning has begun to reduce the risk of flooding on Halalt homes but won’t be in place, for what’s expected to be years. As that communities sleep lightly now and worry that the next storm could be the one, they’ve feared.