Floods and wildfires are now part of normal life in small towns across Canada | Flood

When floodwaters swept the highways in and out of the small town of Tricia Thorpe in the Canadian province of British Columbia, there was no way in or out for days. For a while, it looked like the road to his property would be destroyed as well.

“My oldest daughter thought I was going to freak out when there was no road access,” said Thorpe, who lives in the small community of Lytton in mountainous western Canada, nearly 300 km to the east. northeast of Vancouver by road.

“But we’ve been through so much now that sometimes you’re kind of numb with what’s going to happen next.”

She had good reason to be moved – the devastating floods came just four months after much of her town was burnt down for one of the worst forest fire seasons in the history of the province. His own house and farm were completely destroyed in the July fire. Thorpe spent weeks in a shelter and returned to find that the remains of some of the animals that had burned alive in the fire were still on the property.

Tricia Thorpe and her husband Don Glasgow after saving four of their puppies from the Lytton Fires. Photograph: Tricia Thorpe / Don Glasgow

Thorpe is just one of hundreds of thousands of people in western Canada who get used to catastrophic natural disasters in both summer and winter as the effects of climate change lead to “once every hundred” events. years ”hitting much more often.

Three of the worst years of wildfires in British Columbia have been in the past four years, and the widespread flooding and mudslides of the past week came after about a month of rain fell in a matter of days. , causing landslides that tore up highways and homes.

At least four people died and about 18,000 people were stranded after all major highways connecting Vancouver to the rest of the country were blocked by destroyed bridges and dangerous slips in some places.

After all the destruction of the past few years, Thorpe was ready to take care of herself. She had extra food, water, and gasoline to hide in for days, and felt lucky that her new home was not one of many that were damaged or completely destroyed by the floods.

“We were cut off from the rest of the world,” Thorpe said.

18,000 stranded after floods and landslides in British Columbia - video
18,000 stranded after floods and landslides in British Columbia – video

Others in the region’s mountain towns have been even less fortunate. About 30 miles east, the town of Merritt faced severe flooding as the river running through the community overflowed and swept through streets and entire homes.

City Councilor Mike Bhangu said the river appeared to have forged a new path through the city, creating a remote island where houses and farmland once stood. He said the force of the water was strong enough that it was a question of just letting the new course of the river continue and building around the change.

The city of 7,000 remains under evacuation order after flooding caused its water treatment systems to fail, and the local government has warned residents not to drink tap water even if it is they boiled it first.

Although Merritt did not experience any flames during the summer fires, Bhangu said its residents suffered from the thick smoke covering the sky and the extreme heat that reached 44.5 ° C at the height of the day. ‘a summer heat wave. There were tense times when the city was put on evacuation alert, and people feared losing their homes to the fires.

The flooding came as many residents of the city were still grappling with the emotional consequences of the summer fires.

“I don’t think we’ve had a chance to deal with the fire season,” said Bhangu, who himself was evacuated to a nearby town after floodwaters swept through his town. “It takes a while after an event to understand what you just experienced and people haven’t had the chance to do it. It’s emotional, it’s stressful.

The impact of torrential rains was widespread. Vancouver, which sits in a valley that plunges into mountainous terrain, has effectively been cut off from the rest of Canada, with road access only possible by a detour through the United States. Local media reported panic buys that left produce empty aisles, and the provincial government is limiting gasoline sales in areas near the slides after a gas pipeline was damaged in the storm.

Nienke Klaver and Edward Staples, who live near the city of Princeton in British Columbia, were also isolated when the city was flooded and highways were blocked by landslides. Their house escaped the flood because it sits on higher ground, but they are preparing for weeks to help their less fortunate friends.

The remains of a house and vehicles destroyed by the White Rock Lake fire on the west shore of Okanagan Lake, north of Kelowna, British Columbia
The remains of a house and vehicles destroyed by the White Rock Lake wildfire on the west shore of Okanagan Lake, north of Kelowna, British Columbia, in August. Photograph: Canadian Press / Rex / Shutterstock

After a summer of staying indoors to protect his lungs from thick smoke, Staples said he was sad to see his community lost so soon after the fires. “It’s heartbreaking, I’m choking on it thinking about it,” Staples said. “These are real people who have lost everything and it will take them months or years to get their lives in order.”

Staples and others have expressed their determination to rebuild the community in a way that better protects against more frequent natural disasters.

Back in Lytton, Thorpe said a sense of community was what made him want to stay in the city, despite the terrible events of the past year. Volunteers from the community had gathered to clean up her property and build a new home following the fires this summer, and she said the community will also go through the floods together.

“People have been so resilient. This is where we belong, they are part of the family, ”Thorpe said.

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