Two and a half weeks ago as a heavy rain event unleashed its fury on the East Kootenay, RDEK Electoral Area F Director Susan Clovechok prepared to face her first wide-scale emergency response since taking office.
“On Sunday, May 31 my phone started ringing with calls from constituents and the emergency management team. By that evening, the magnitude of what we were facing was becoming evident,” says Clovechok. “I have been so impressed by the residents who stepped up to support each other, whether it was helping with sandbagging or cleaning up yards that had debris. A special thanks to those families that opened up their homes to those who where evacuated. Witnessing how natural it was for the people in the Columbia Valley to help their neighbours is one of the many reasons that I am so proud to represent the people of Area F.”
The debris flow that struck Fairmont Creek and Cold Spring Creek was the second largest one in recorded history. Further up the highway, impacts on Windermere Creek accelerated the movement and downstream deposit of sediment at the mouth of the creek, resulting in localized flooding.
“I am so grateful for the response of our staff, many of whom had already been active in the Regional Emergency Operations Centre through the pandemic, who have been working tirelessly the past two weeks, not just in Area F but in support of the whole region,” says Clovechok. “When you see the amount of debris and material being removed, and understand the coordination and processes that have had to be undertaken to get to where we are today, it is staggering. I’d also like to extend our thanks to MLA Clovechok, for advocating to Minister Farnworth and Minister Heyman to assist in accelerating the approval of emergency in-stream work in Windermere Creek.”
The RDEK has also been working closely with Water Stewardship and Emergency Management BC and BC Wildfire Service crews assisted with sandbagging efforts.
While the emergency response is still fully underway, Clovechok is already thinking ahead to the work that will form part of the recovery and potential future mitigation. “We recognize the importance of continuing to communicate with and engage residents as we move through the next stages of recovery,” emphasizes Clovechok. “In particular, we have heard the desire from residents along Windermere Creek to have a wider discussion on the longer-term potential mitigation options. While we don’t yet have a timeline on when those discussions will take place, I do want to assure the community we will have them.”
Currently, there are States of Local Emergency in Fairmont and Windermere and an Evacuation Alert for Fairmont Creek.