Community rallies as floods affect Heffley Louis Creek Valley
Valley resident Clark Hooton woke up to a nasty surprise at 5:15 a.m. May 6.
“I woke up and heard grinding, it was getting louder and louder. It sounded like a snowplow was going up the road getting closer and closer,” Hooton said.
“I looked out my window up the hill and saw huge trees starting to break off, flipping through the air cartwheeling. I saw it take out the power line and the transformer blew.”
Terrified as the slide headed towards his home, he yelled for his wife and children to wake up and get out of the house before calling 911, thinking the slide was going to wipe out the highway completely.
Though the highway, west of Whitecroft, was passable, mud and debris covered almost the entire westbound lane and around one third of his 12 acre property was destroyed. Hooton said he was grateful that his home and family were safe and that neighbours in the valley have been immensely helpful.
“There has been huge community support which was very quick.”
Local reports of floods began trickling in on May 4, as Heffley Louis Creek Road leading from Sun Peaks to Heffley Creek was beginning to wash out in two places as swollen creeks spilled over banks and ponds burst.
Water flowed from Christian Creek across the road below Diamond Lil’s gravel pit, and at a second site a culvert across from Lower Heffley Lake Road overflowed and began to flow alongside the westbound lane, washing out at least one driveway.
Across from Little Heffley Lake a new body of water formed beside the road as rain fell and the snowpack quickly melted.
By May 6 drivers were challenged to make it through some patches and pavement had begun collapsing in numerous areas. A creek washed away a section of road at the base of the Embleton Mountain and pavement crumbled on the westbound lane above Little Heffley Lake.
The road remained open and was monitored by the Thompson Nicola Regional District’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) who was in contact with the ministries of transportation and the environment. The EOC was activated that morning due to numerous flooding situations in the region.
In Heffley Creek, Old Highway Five is closed completely after a large section of road was undermined and washed away, exposing water and gas lines. Water was temporarily shut off to some residents.
Brenda Steiner, whose family has lived in the valley for over 100 years, said the only time similar floods happened was in 1948, and even then the impact wasn’t as severe.
The community spirit that helped Hooton prevailed through the valley as other areas saw similar floods and wash outs.
Graham and Gail McNeil were out of town when neighbours first told them to hurry home as their house was in the path of water that had taken over Yates Creek Road after a culvert burst.
The creek quickly washed down the road, including over their yard and into their basement, flooding it.
By the time the McNeils made it home, a group of neighbours had come together to remove the water and clean much of the damage.
Jason White of Powder Ventures and his team worked at one site where the road was
washing out beside their gravel pit, creating a gravel barrier that redirected water away from homes and Heffley Lake.
Disaster Financial Assistance will be made available to those in the Central region impacted by the floods. Small businesses, farmers, charities, local governments, and homeowners will be able to apply for financial assistance up to 80 per cent of the total eligible damage between $1,000 and $300,000.
For Hooton it will be a long road. The family is not yet able to return and work cannot commence until a fly over deems the home safe from further danger. Then the work can begin to remove loads of debris, fix the driveway and ensure it is safe from future floods.
Hooton said he was concerned about the potential for more damage to other areas around Sun Peaks in the coming days.
“We don’t even know how much damage there will be.”
16. A washout beside the highway at Little Heffley Lake
15. Old Highway Five was close in Heffley Creek after much of the road washed away.
14. Yates Creek Road turned into a creek and washed away.
13. The culvert that burst, flooding Yates Creek Road.
12. The flooded road has blocked access to at least two homes.
11. Clark Hooton’s property is unrecognizable after a landslide.
10. Huge trees snapped when the slide came down the mountain side.
9. The landslide wiped out around one third of Hooton’s twelve acres.
8. A fast moving creek now exists at Hooton’s property.
7. The property’s hydro pole snapped in the slide.
6. Mud and debris flowed over the westbound lane of Heffley Louis Creek Road.
5. Damage to the road below Diamond Lil’s Gravel Pit.
4. A culvert at an entrance to Embleton mountain’s hiking trails washes out the road.
3. A driveway is washed down hill when culverts overflow.
2. Pavement crumbles in the westbound lane of Heffley Louis Creek Road above Little Heffley Lake.
1. Water collects on the uphill side of Heffley Louis Creek Road at Little Heffley Lake.