The extreme flooding in southern BC has been and continues to be devastating.
The prolonged heavy rainfall caused mudslides that blocked and destroyed major highways, for thousands of people to abandon their homes, and the death of hundreds of thousands of farm animals.
While some British Columbians experienced minor or no changes to their daily lives, others have tragically lost theirs or had their livelihoods severely impacted.
Those affected by the flooding include current and former VIU students.
Jaymee Blagborne and Mitchell Gair are two previous VIU students who graduated in 2020 and are now living in Vancouver. Blagborne is taking classes at Simon Fraser University to attain a veterinary assistant diploma, and Gair is working as a numerical analyses tutor for SFU undergraduates.
Both left on a road trip with Gair’s brother and father to visit family in Calgary just before the floods occurred, with plans for a quick turnaround to Vancouver. On the way home, they decided to stay in Kamloops for a couple nights because of the weather. It was a good thing they did.
“We were glad we didn’t leave earlier so we didn’t get trapped in the floods or a mudslide,” Blagborne said.
The delay in their travels forced Gair to cancel his tutorial sessions at Simon Fraser University, and Blagborne to miss her in-person classes. Blagborne and Gair finally left Kamloops on the following Wednesday.
They had originally planned on travelling back to Vancouver via Highway 99 to the north, but a mudslide between Lillooet and Pemberton blocked the road.
From there, they decided that their best option to return home was to drive through the United States. After minor issues at the border, the pair made the twelve hour journey through Washington and back to their home in Vancouver several days after originally planned.
“For us, [it] was just an inconvenience,” Gair explained. “We have a lot of sympathy for those with their entire house underwater, and the animals that were left behind. It’s a horrible situation.”
“I think that this really proves that climate change is real,” Gair continued. “It’s not something happening elsewhere in the world, it’s something affecting the entire world. This is something that if we don’t deal with it now, [will] have huge consequences, and we can see that it already has.”
Erika Parsons is a VIU student who was impacted by the flooding in Nanaimo.
Parsons was on her way to the campus for her Tuesday morning class on November 16 when her journey was cut short by a river overflowing onto the bridge near her residence in Nanaimo.
“I didn’t trust my car to get over that,” Parsons said. “I turned around and went to the other end of my street and a big chunk of [the street] got washed away by the water from the river … traffic was backed up and nobody was letting me out so I was pretty much stuck on my road for Monday and Tuesday.”
Parsons explained that she was able to leave her street Tuesday night as traffic in the area had lessened. Thankfully, her home was not impacted by the flooding. She says that there’s a feeling of panic surrounding the aftermath of the flooding.
“I’ve lived here my whole life and I have never seen weather or rain like this before in the fall,” Parsons said. “It’s all really stressful, not only for the climate change aspect but also because it affects my daily life … as a person who works at a gas station in customer service with the current imposed 30 litre limit, and also as a person who needs to buy gas and groceries.”
Joe Enns, a current creative writing major at VIU, has been directly and indirectly affected by the crisis.
The damage from the influx of water caused a (now-filled) sinkhole near Lantzville that slowed down much of the traffic between Nanaimo and Nanoose Bay. Enns lives in Nanoose Bay, and the sinkhole slowed his drive back from class at VIU. Between the traffic and having to take back roads, it took Enns three hours to get back to his home.
Worse than sitting in traffic, Enns had to worry about the devastating affects the flooding had on his family near Sumas Prairie in Abbotsford—one of the hardest hit areas in BC.
“This flooding left my family pretty much homeless and a lot of their stuff was pretty much turned to garbage,” Enns said.
His family evacuated from their properties and were trapped overnight at a McDonalds before being rescued by boat. Enns joined his family a few days later to help with the damage in the aftermath.
“I met so many people in the last few days that I can’t even keep anyone’s name straight. Everyone is just there for each other,” Enns said. “I’ve been impressed with how coordinated the churches have been, helping people and bringing food to everyone. It’s heartwarming and devastating at the same time.”
Although Enns was happy to see such strong community efforts to help each other in this difficult time, he emphasized that there needs to be more effort put toward negating the effects of climate change.
“Everyone says it’s unprecedented times, but it’s very precedented. With climate change, the prediction is that we will see more extreme weather conditions more frequently and, especially in the last year in BC, that’s exactly what we are seeing,” he said.
As someone with most of my own family in Alberta, I have always thought that if I really had to, I could get in my car and drive there. With the extreme flooding and massive damages to vital highways, the recent weather has served as a wake up call to the immediate impacts of climate change.
With the unrelenting heat this previous June, the crazy wildfires throughout the summer, and now with the severe flooding occurring across BC, climate change is becoming less of an unsettling concept, and more of a worrisome reality.