Floods, road closures, evacuations during weekend state of emergency in Chemainus

Extent of the flood zone along Chemainus Road by the Chemainus River can be seen from this aerial drone viewpoint. (Photo by Shawn Wagar)Extent of the flood zone along Chemainus Road by the Chemainus River can be seen from this aerial drone viewpoint. (Photo by Shawn Wagar)
Halalt lands, the Crofton Road turnoff and Tussie Road are all in view of this aerial drone shot. (Photo by Shawn Wagar)Halalt lands, the Crofton Road turnoff and Tussie Road are all in view of this aerial drone shot. (Photo by Shawn Wagar)
Large lake formed around Russell Farms. (Photo courtesy of Deborah Lovely)Large lake formed around Russell Farms. (Photo courtesy of Deborah Lovely)
Carol August Morrison’s back yard in Westholme. (Photo by Carol August Morrison)Carol August Morrison’s back yard in Westholme. (Photo by Carol August Morrison)
Mount Sicker Road area. (Photo submitted)Mount Sicker Road area. (Photo submitted)
Flooded Westholme Road. (Photo by Daniel James Henry)Flooded Westholme Road. (Photo by Daniel James Henry)
Dan Myers and son Matt on the scene for McBride’s Service Station of Chemainus to haul away another abandoned car at the Crofton Road turnoff. (Photo by Don Bodger)Dan Myers and son Matt on the scene for McBride’s Service Station of Chemainus to haul away another abandoned car at the Crofton Road turnoff. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Dan and Matt Myers were busy rescuing stranded cars, but not until the waters subsided. (Photo by Don Bodger)Dan and Matt Myers were busy rescuing stranded cars, but not until the waters subsided. (Photo by Don Bodger)

A much-needed calm came after an intense storm struck the Chemainus Valley Friday night and early Saturday morning, but the damage was already done.

A Category 4 atmospheric river passed over the Island, bringing torrential rains that flooded the region, causing numerous evacuations and a state of emergency to be declared by the Cowichan Valley Regional District.

The Trans-Canada Highway was shut down for several hours and, with the back roads severely flooded as well, there was no passage south-bound from Chemainus. Fortunately, the water receded quickly when the weather improved Saturday morning and the highway reopened before noon.

Russell Farm Market & Garden Centre was under several feet of water when the Chemainus River spilled way over its banks early Saturday morning. It was full of mud after the water level went down and fridges were upside down.

The lower portion of Mount Sicker Road, all through Westholme and the Halalt First Nation lands and Crofton Road to Tussie Road were particularly hard hit. The Bald Eagle Campsite was also an area of concern.

Flooding in areas of Crofton resulted in the evacuation of about 23 people. A BC Transit bus was used to take 18 residents to the Duncan area to stay with friends and family and the rest were accommodated in Crofton.

Evacuations continued into early Saturday morning and the Cowichan Community Centre was opened at 3 a.m. as a group lodging and reception centre. The centre initially hosted 28 evacuated residents from North Cowichan and the Halalt First Nation.

“The majority of them are on First Nations land,” noted North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring of the evacuees.

Direction was provided to people under the jurisdiction of the First Nations Health Authority.

The high water levels astounded everyone, particularly on the Trans-Canada Highway portion of the river. The back roads frequently flood, but seldom the highway.

“I’ve never ever seen that before,” conceded Siebring.

Even before the rainstorm inflicted its fury, Chemainus was rocked by high winds Friday afternoon and a tree falling in Askew Park resulted in power being out to the main downtown core for up to five hours for some residents until 8 p.m.

Lori Wickham of Ladysmith, who grew up in Chemainus, was at the Best Western Plus Chemainus Inn for a family memorial for her mom when she got stuck on an elevator by herself for an hour just as the power went out.

“I was panicking at first,” she conceded. “It was pitch black. It wasn’t honestly as bad as I thought it could have been when you hear stories about that.”

Wickham alerted family members to her predicament. She had just seen a news report the night before about students being trapped in an elevator at UVic when the same thing happened to her.

The news report prompted thoughts about the necessities to get through that situation and she was fortunate to be so equipped.

“Your phone so you can text, you’ve got a light, you’ve got music,” said Wickham.

She put on a Jose Feliciano playlist and played Boardscapes until help arrived.

“The hotel staff was fantastic,” praised Wickham. “They even gave me a bottle of wine.”

Power was maintained throughout the peak of the rainstorm, but many motorists didn’t fare too well trying to traverse through the high waters. People always try to drive through it and McBride’s Service Station was inundated with calls.

Dan Myers, who’s actually retired, simply couldn’t get to all of them with his son Matt at first.

“There was four feet of water so it wasn’t going to happen,” said Myers.

He wondered why people took a chance when the water levels were obviously so high, especially at the Crofton Road turnoff.

“You come around the corner and you see water. ‘Is there something odd going on?’” he queried.

Chemainus and Crofton fire department members were out all night assisting people.

Martin Drakeley, the manager of Fire & Bylaw Services for the Municipality of North Cowichan, hasn’t seen a night that busy for the four North Cowichan halls since he started his job last March.

“The volunteers and paid on-call firefighters were very good,” he noted. “When everybody is pitching in, it’s quite a sight to behold. Once they get going and sharing resources, they’re very well-coordinated.”

Crofton dealt with flooding and evacuations in its area, with assistance from Chemainus. South End responded to a shed fire on Cowichan Lake Road around 10 p.m. Friday and went to Russell Farm Market to help Chemainus crews rescue five individuals who were trapped on the roof as that area flooded.

Maple Bay members were staged at the Crofton hall in case further assistance was needed, and the Duncan and Ladysmith halls were also alerted in case the South End or Chemainus halls required help.

Great tales always arise during challenging situations.

On Saturday, Feb. 1, two staff members at the Vancouver Island Regional Library in Chemainus ensured the library opened to the public despite local flooding. The circulation supervisor worked frantically through the night to ensure animals on her farm did not drown, but then got ready and went to work in the morning to make sure anyone who needed library services could come to the open library on an otherwise difficult day.

By Sunday morning, roads had turned slick and a series of other mishaps ensued. A vehicle rolled over at the Crofton Road corner trying to avoid another, but no one was seriously hurt.

There was also a single vehicle accident south of Mount Sicker in the northbound lanes, with Crofton and South End fire departments attending.

flooding

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cowichan Valley Capitals defenceman Logan Rands pokes the puck away from Alberni Valley Bulldogs forward Talon Duff. (Elena Rardon/Black Press Media)
Offence sags as Cowichan Capitals reach midway mark

Caps score one goal in three games as pod season continues

BCYP Minister for the Southern Interior, Aislinn Dressler of Fernie said the Youth Parliament being virtual was a great way to learn about how the BC Parliament was operating. (Photo contributed by Aislinn Dressler)
Applications open for Islands Youth Parliament

Applications must be received by April 23

Someone used this counterfeit $50 to pay for items at the Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store in downtown Duncan in April 2021. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Duncan businesses warned of counterfeit cash

Fake $50 passed at Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store

Martin Drakeley, North Cowichan’s manager of fire and bylaw services, says the municipality’s fire halls have responded to more fires than usual this spring. (File photo)
Dry weather, wind leads to more brushfires this spring in North Cowichan

‘Be safe. Be fire smart. Be situationally aware.’

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

A teacher-librarian in Nanaimo was fired in 2019 for checking out an age-inappropriate graphic novel to a student. The discipline agreement was published Wednesday, April 21. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo teacher-librarian fired for checking out too-graphic graphic novel to student

Teacher had been previously disciplined and suspended on two occasions

Aria Pendak Jefferson cuddles ChiChi, the family cat that ran away two years ago in Ucluelet. The feline was missing until Courtney Johnson and Barry Edge discovered her in the parking lot of the Canadian Princess earlier this month. Aria and her parents were reunited with ChiChi in a parking lot in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
An Island girl’s wish is answered as her cat came back

Courtenay family reunited with cat that went missing in Ucluelet in 2019

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Vancouver Island Connector and Tofino Bus is putting a 41-passenger electric bus through its paces in a three-month trial run between Nanaimo and Victoria. (Photo submitted)
Electric bus on trial run serving Victoria-to-Nanaimo route

Vancouver Island Connector and Tofino Bus trying out 41-seat electric coach for three months

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Kai Palkeinen recently helped a car stuck on the riverbed near the Big Eddy Bridge. While the car could not be saved, some of the driver’s belongings were. It’s common for vehicles to get stuck in the area due to significantly changing river levels from Revelstoke Dam. (Photo by Kai Palkeinen)
“I just sank a car’: Revelstoke resident tries to save vehicle from the Columbia River

Although it’s not permitted, the riverbed near the city is popular for off roading

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, walks down the street with an acquaintance after leaving B.C. Supreme Court during a lunch break at her extradition hearing, in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, April 1, 2021. A judge is scheduled to release her decision today on a request to delay the final leg of hearings in Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rich Lam
B.C. judge grants Meng Wanzhou’s request to delay extradition hearings

Lawyers for Canada’s attorney general had argued there is no justification to delay proceedings in the case

B.C. Premier John Horgan announces travel restrictions between the province’s regional health authorities at the legislature, April 19, 2021. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sees 862 more COVID-19 cases Wednesday, seven deaths

Recreational travel restrictions set to begin Friday

Most Read