CACHE CREEK, B.C. — The mayor of a small British Columbia village has declared a state of emergency and signed a series of evacuation orders after a violent storm tore through the province’s Interior, leaving a trail of flooding and destruction in its wake.
It could be weeks or even months before some residents are allowed back into their homes, said Cache Creek Mayor John Ranta on Sunday.
So far, about 40 residents have been ordered from their homes in the village of 1,000 about 80 kilometres west of Kamloops, B.C., he added, with another 80 put on evacuation alert.
“We’ll do our best to ensure that they’re allowed back as quickly as possible if (their homes) are deemed to be safe and fit for habitation,” he said.
The order to evacuate will keep people from their homes until crews are able to assess the stability of the slopes above residences deemed at risk.
As of Sunday afternoon about 50 homes had been abandoned and nearly 100 people had registered at the emergency operations centre after rainfall levels topped 26 millimetres in a single hour on Saturday, said Ranta.
Ranta said he was in his car when the storm began shortly after 4 p.m. on Saturday, and that by 6:30 p.m. the village was devastated.
“It started off as a trickle that was going down the storm sewers, to a river that was running down the road with debris floating along,” he said, describing the intensity of the rainfall as “unbelievable.”
“It was raining just like you can’t describe,” he added. “Rain combined with hail, coming down like the sky was falling.
Declaring a state of emergency could mean more financial support from the province for rebuilding on the heels of the disaster — especially important given that Ranta said he believes few homeowners are covered for floods.
“Imagine how devastating it would be to lose your home to a rainfall event and not have insurance coverage,” said Ranta. “That’s where I think the province and emergency response agencies need to step in to help in a situation like this.”
While some houses needed gas metres removed and the lines capped, the mayor said the flooding did not appear to affect either the water or sewage systems.
On Sunday, B.C. Premier Christy Clark tweeted her support for residents affected by the flooding.
Cache Creek Volunteer Fire Dept. Chief Tom Moe says the community looks like a war zone, with damage and debris strewn everywhere.
Moe says fire crews had difficulty responding to emergency calls on Saturday because a mud flow had forced its way through the department’s bay doors and spewed through the fire hall.
Environment Canada says a severe thunderstorm watch remains in effect for Kamloops, the Okanagan and the Shuswap.
By Geordon Omand in Vancouver