An enormous recovery effort has been underway at Cowichan Tribes for more than two weeks since B.C.’s first atmospheric river event damaged approximately 100 homes.
On the last weekend of November, recovery and preparedness took equal priority as Cowichan Tribes worked tirelessly to prepare for another series of storms, a press release from Cowichan Tribes said.
These back-to-back weather events put immense pressure on the community by requiring efforts towards recovery and ongoing preparedness at the same time.
“We’re in a period of environmental turbulence that is putting a lot of pressure on our community,” said Acting Chief Cindy Daniels.
“People are having to leave their homes and figure out how to clean up water damage, while at the same time knowing the waters might come again. I encourage everyone to remain hopeful, check on Elders and your neighbours, and do everything you can to be prepared.”
Cowichan Tribes is drawing on partners, the community, and Cowichan contractors to make it through this challenging experience.
There’s been extensive collaboration with emergency responders including the RCMP, Search and Rescue, BC Wildfire Service, Conservation Authority Cowichan Tribes Bylaw and Fisheries teams, and Cowichan contractors.
The Canadian Armed Forces has been a welcome presence in the community since they arrived on Nov. 27, the release said.
They’re primarily assisting staff with building extensive barriers around homes and buildings at highest risk of flooding, including the Clem Clem big house.
Cowichan Tribes has recognized the increasing frequency of peak flood events and responded by completing more than $3-million in watershed restoration work this year, they said.
In advance of weather events, staff also carefully monitor river flows and weather conditions.
Monitoring illustrates that peak flows in the Cowichan and Koksilah Rivers on Nov. 15 were close to one in 100-year events.
“This type of flooding isn’t supposed to be common, but it is becoming more frequent,” explained Daniels.
“The Cowichan River has flooded every year since 2018, putting major strain on the community and Cowichan Tribes’ capacity.”
Because of this frequency, Cowichan Tribes is expanding its capacity, hiring Chris Jancowski as the first ever emergency planning and response manager.
Jancowski stepped into his new role on Nov. 22 and has spent the last few days sandbagging and coordinating community preparedness activities.
His task is to help Cowichan Tribes grow its emergency preparedness and response capacity.
For more information about flood recovery supports call 250-715-3333 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.