Unprecedented flooding has abated in the town of Princeton, B.C., but the return to everyday life is far in the offing.
Everything from keepsakes to furniture is strewn across local streets, parked for the time being where floodwaters carried them.
A thick layer of mud has settled into many homes and basic infrastructure has yet to be put back in place.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking,” Mayor Spencer Coyne said.
“I know those people. Those are people I went to school with, people I grew up with, people I’ve known my whole life, and they’ve lost everything.”
There are currently 300 homes still under an evacuation order and another 1,100 are on an evacuation alert. Coyne couldn’t say when those orders and alerts will be lifted.
The Regional District was in and conducted damage assessments on all the affected properties Thursday, he said, and each was given different coloured cards indicating what the level of damage is.
- IIO called to fatal police shooting after reported threats at Abbotsford hospital
- Proposal for up 7 highrises near future Langley SkyTrain station raises eyebrows
- B.C. Hyundai Plug-In Hybrid owner hit with $15,000 electric battery cost
- Ibrahim Ali trial: Court falls silent for 2 minutes as Crown makes closing arguments
Some improvements have been made, however.
“The sewer system is slowly stabilizing,” Coyne said.
“With water, we’ve got 20 per cent in our reservoir, so that’s a good thing, and Fortis right now is hopefully putting in that line that we’ve been struggling to get in and it’s going to bring back heat.”
They’re also helping with nearby communities that are socked in with mud before freezing temperatures further complicate things.
With so much on his plate, Coyne was hoping the opening of Highway 3 would be delayed. It was opened Friday for essential travel.
“Our biggest concern right now is Highway 3 reopening and what that means for safety,” he said.
“We’re going to have everything coming through our little town right now. And it’s not that we don’t want (people) here, it’s just we don’t have the capacity right now.”
Just about every side street in Princeton is closed and they’re still struggling to clean up and get the infrastructure up to snuff.
“You kind of want to just put your head in your hands and cry,” he said.
He said his concern is if people are going to come through, they’re going to drive too fast and they’re going to get frustrated and that will have disastrous consequences.
“My message to drivers right now is if you’re coming this way, if you’re coming over the Hope, Princeton, and you’re going over Highway 5A, please take your time, be patient and work with us,” he said.
“Wherever you’re leaving, try to fill up with gasoline, have a bottle of water, have some emergency supplies in your vehicle with you before you pass over the mountains. You never know what’s going to happen over the mountains.”
The province announced the route to the Southern Interior was opening for the movement of goods and people travelling for essential purposes only, using Highway 7 and Highway 3.
Essential purposes for travel are defined in the Travel Restrictions Order through the Emergency Program Act. Checkpoints will be in place and travel restrictions will be enforced.
This progress will enable the movement of goods and supplies from the Lower Mainland to get to the rest of B.C. and other provinces.
Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure staff and highway maintenance contractors have worked around the clock since Sunday to remove debris, repair road surfaces and reopen both highways.
Drivers should expect sections of single-lane alternating traffic on Highway 7 and three sections of single-lane alternating traffic on Highway 3 east of Hope.
The province said that the delays will be significant, given the amount of essential goods to be delivered and the many people eager to complete their trips home and that it would be ideal if people could wait an extra day or two to travel if possible. This will help the movement of essential goods on Highway 3.
“For drivers who must travel for essential purposes, the ministry urges preparation and patience,” reads the province’s press release.