'We're all hanging in limbo': Travellers stranded by slides and flooding in B.C. communities wait to go home
Slides and flooding that have shut down major B.C. routes between Metro Vancouver and the Interior indefinitely have also left many travellers stranded in communities along the highways, including in Hope, where the province says hundreds of evacuees are also being supported.
While work is underway to create an access road to connect the community with the rest of Metro Vancouver, for now there’s no clear idea when people will be able to return home.
Mar Muller has been sleeping in her car at the Hope Esso gas station, where she said dozens of other vehicles have been parked as well.
“I got stuck on the Coquihalla with the first mudslide,“ Muller said, and added her electric vehicle was towed to Merritt to get charged. “Then I came down (Highway) 3 to Princeton, and then across to Hope.”
Muller said she was trying to get to Vancouver, but instead has found herself sleeping in her backseat the past couple of nights.
“I think the hardest bit is just not knowing when or how we’re going to get out of here,” she said. “Wi-Fi is intermittent...nobody really is coming by to tell us much of anything. We’re kind of relying on each other, and the texts we’re getting from friends and family.”
Muller said people from the community have been sharing food with those who are stranded.
“Everyone’s being really generous,” she said. “We’re all kind of hanging in limbo.”
One of the owners of the Hope Esso truck stop, also known as the Silver Creek Travel Centre, said at the busiest point, there appeared to be hundreds of vehicles in their parking lot.
Bill Miller said they’re trying to manage inventory at the restaurant on site, and the food in their store, but it’s a challenge when there’s no timeline for reopening.
“We’re not getting any supplies in at all. So food, fuel, we’re getting zero,” he said. “We opened up the restaurant at night for people to sleep and stay warm, priority to anybody with young children and the elderly.”
He said the truck stop also has showers and a lounge on site.
“I think all the hotels are sold out for tonight,” Miller said on Tuesday. “People are not sure when they’ll be able to get out.”
Harpreet Singh managed to make it to Manning Park resort, after a landslide initially left him stranded and sleeping in his vehicle.
“Luckily, we got a room. Somebody was kind enough to allow us to stay in his room,” he said. “There are many others who are still in the lobby. They are lying on the floors.”
Singh said when he first became stuck on the highway on Sunday, he saw stranded truck drivers helping others on the road.
“Even food was provided,” he said. “During the worst of times, humanity comes forward. The magnanimity of the people is seen, and that’s really commendable, and we as Canadians are proud to support each other.”
Singh was heading home to Surrey from a visit to Prince George when the extreme weather hit. He’s still not sure when he’ll make it home.
“Internet connection is very poor over here, so we’re not getting all the information on when this is going to be cleared,” he said. “We’re just hoping for the best.”
The province said Emergency Management B.C. is working with the Wildfire Service to bring more food, water, and cots to Hope, where they said about 1,100 evacuees are also being helped, with 900 sleeping at a local church and high school.
Other local businesses and organizations are also opening their doors to those who are stranded.
Camp Hope, a site owned by the Seventh-day Adventist Church which normally hosts a summer camp for children, is now helping people with food and shelter. Director Bill Gerber said he believed they ended up with about 250 people as of Monday.
“We would have kept going, but we were pretty much full by then,” he said, and added people are currently being housed in a 72-room lodge, where some evacuees from the Lytton wildfire this summer are also staying until they are able to return home. “We went out to our cabins and brought in all the mattresses and all the mats.”
Gerber said local First Nations communities have also been bringing people in and providing food and shelter. On Tuesday, the Camp Hope lodge was being powered by a generator, but Gerber said if power is restored they could also look at housing people in a number of cabins on the property, if need be.
“They were right there on our doorstep, practically. It wasn’t even a thing where you had to question what we should do. It was just, we’re going to do this,” he said. “It’s a good feeling to be able to help each other.”
In Hope, a local pizza restaurant has also being helping out, by offering free food and tea to stranded drivers.
Akshay Davesar with Hope Pizza Place said they ran out of food on Monday, and were trying to get more supplies so they could keep helping.
“We are trying our best to keep the pizzas going, but we’re also running low,” he said, and added there was a long wait to get into the local grocery store. “We had people on our behalf wait in those lines for us, but they weren’t able to get anything. Probably just a few gallons of milk for the tea.”
Davesar said some people have given them donations, and everyone has been very grateful.
“For one person, I know he said he hadn’t had food for 26 hours,” he said. “We just help out when people are in need and when we have supplies that we can hand out, I don’t see why not.”