SICAMOUS, B.C. – Up until this past Saturday, just before noon, Andre Robert was eagerly awaiting getting hitched to his fiancee come December in Hawaii.
Then the rain started, and within two hours and a 15-centimetre jump of water, the couple’s plans washed away along with large swaths of their town.
Widespread flooding in Sicamous, B.C., has halted the 29-year-old’s boat rental business just as the seasonal boom was about to go full throttle.
“We can go do the cheapy Justice of the Peace kind of thing, but we were hoping to go to Hawaii and elope on the beach there somewhere,” said Robert as he powered a boat from A.J.’s Marine Rentals through just one of multiple swollen lakes and rivers in British Columbia.
“I told her, if I don’t have any money it’s pretty hard to get married.”
About 350 people in the summer tourism town of 3,100, more than 340 km northeast of Vancouver, were ordered evacuated and its Two Mile subdivision was declared under a state of emergency after the weekend’s natural disaster.
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It topped the list of a series of communities in the B.C. Interior, the Kootenay region and the Fraser Valley where flooding is impacting lives. Across the province, about 700 people have been forced from their homes and another 1,000 remain prepped to evacuate on a moment’s notice.
Sicamous residents’ livelihoods are usually propelled by 100 days between June and September.
But fast-flowing waters, sprung from torrential showers and rapid snowmelt, cleaved a path of physical and economic devastation through the region.
That weather has stymied business for the marinas, boat and houseboat rental outlets. Local hotels, floating grocery stores and spin-off shops are suffering, too, and all say they haven’t experienced such conditions in years, if ever.
“This is going to be outrageous, it’s a little scary,” Robert said. ” Now, we’re going to be cut down to about 30 days in August. There’s a ripple effect for everybody in the community.”
The storm on Saturday triggered a massive debris flow that began when a local river became plugged with logs from previous rains. Massive pressure released the jam, sending rafts of water diverting from within the banks and thrusting the material down a road, through a parking lot and cascading around waterfront property.
A cottage was pushed off its foundation, several dozen vehicles were submerged in a mudslide, and an asphalt road gave way to leave gaping holes that swallowed vehicles.
“There’s a lot of people that just have this as their summer residence, so they probably don’t even know about it yet,” said Ken Meyer, 50, as he scoured a 40-metre sinkhole with a blue pick-up truck resting inside.
“It’s going to take a long time to clean up. It’s pretty sad to see our community looking like this.”
In other parts of town, locals canoed through parking lots, removing possessions from otherwise inaccessible homes.
A water ban was put into effect after a 20,000 litre gas tank toppled into Mara Lake, the major water body where many high-end cottages are located. Beaches normally filled with revellers were under water.
Road closures meant the only way to reach Two Mile was by boat.
A hefty stationary bicycle was heaved from inside onto one cottage owner’s lawn, a place where he said the young adults in his family played Bocci ball only days earlier.
When the downpour started, the group started sandbagging. By 2 a.m. they determined it was futile.
“Then the flow got too high for the sand bags and we let nature take its course. It was a very difficult decision,” said Bob, who asked for anonymity to protect his home from looters, as he surveyed the damage from his dock.
The retired vacationer from Calgary, whose family has had the home for 40 years, said the coming months will be rough – but he is certain that residents with pull together.
“It’s a town that cares and Sicamous will get through it. However, there’s going to be a lot of heartache in the meantime,” he said.
“This is a vacation paradise – and it will be again.”
Elsewhere in the province, 35 homes in the Creston area of southeastern B.C. were placed on evacuation alert Tuesday as the community declared a local state of emergency because of localized flooding.
The Kootenay River nearby is rising and heavy rains are forecast for the region, with up to 40 millimetres expected to fall before the storm passes.
Officials say nearby Kootenay Lake is expected to peak by the end of the week and forecasters say the lake could reach a height not seen in half a century.
Saskatchewan is lending resources and expertise to B.C. to help deal with the wide-spread flooding.
Three emergency services officers and an eight-person rapid response team has arrived in Chilliwack with equipment, including eight kilometres of flood barriers, five automated sandbagging machines and pumps.