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As Grand Forks begins to recover, Fraser Valley hopes to avoid its fate
As the Canadian Armed Forces help evacuees in Grand Forks access their homes - some almost entirely destroyed by flood waters - after more than a week of flooding in B.C.’s Interior, residents of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley hope their communities will not suffer a similar fate.
So far, flooding in the Lower Mainland has been lighter than expected. On Barnston Island - a spot expected to be hit hard - students from nearby schools spent Friday sandbagging, but the river held off on its own Saturday.
“We’re not on an evacuation order which we had anticipated we might actually have needed today,” said Rod Tulette, the incident commander on the island. “As it looks, we're probably not going to need it at all this weekend.”
Other areas were not as lucky. In Chilliwack, where campgrounds should have been packed for the first long weekend of the summer, sites were instead swamped with water that turned picnic tables into islands.
“It’s gotta be seven or eight, at least seven or eight feet higher than it normally is,” resident Claude Overbury said of the river.
Of course, none of the damage in the Fraser Valley approaches the severity of that seen in the Interior. On Saturday, Canadian forces were finally able to reach properties that had been cut off by floodwaters for more than a week.
Lenora Stauffer’s family farm was one such property. The flood took not only her home, but her livelihood and her animals.
“Our cows had just given birth,” Stauffer said. “The calves drowned. The mother cows drowned. We never did find the calves. The cows are dead up there, but the calves are gone.”
So many things lost to the flooding can’t ever be replaced, but sandbagging efforts and a recent break in the weather have made it more likely that some things can be saved.
“There was a rain event that missed us, or largely missed us anyways,” said Grand Forks fire chief Dale Heriot, “So that's provided us some relief and we've seen the rivers drop quite a bit.”
The focus now in many no-go zones is damage assessment, with safety officials working to decide which evacuees can return safely to their homes, and when.
And, as the focus in the Interior pivots from evacuation and safety to recovery and rebuilding, relief efforts pivot toward the coast.
Some of the troops stationed in Grand Forks will be heading to the Fraser Valley in the coming days to help mitigate flood damage. With water levels still near record highs - and another potential rise expected on Monday - significant danger remains.
With files from CTV Vancouver’s Sarah MacDonald and Breanna Karstens-Smith