A severe storm pelting the Island with heavy rains and wind has resulted in evacuations, power outages and elementary school students being pulled out of classes.
Seven people and three pets were rescued Tuesday night after a State of Local Emergency was declared by the regional district for Parry’s RV Park on Martindale Road, located on the banks of the Englishman River.
Arrowsmith Search and Rescue’s Michael Addiscott said there have been no reported injuries from the flood. He said crews were called to the scene at approximately 5:30 p.m.
“Water levels have risen about four feet,” said Addiscott, noting emergency personal were “thigh-deep” in water. He said the RV park’s close vicinity to rising tides and the river make for a difficult situation. Addiscott, a swiftwater rescue team member, said first responders spent the night in zodiac boats ferrying park residents from 12 homes, with just a few bags in tow, to a dry harbour.
Addiscott said the residents spent Tuesday night in a nearby motel and there is no indication, as of press time Wednesday, when they will be allowed back in their homes.
“One of the biggest concerns wasn’t just the water,” he said. “It’s also that the water might get contaminated.”
Addiscott explains septic fields can often become contaminated by vehicles leaking fuel and the many other chemicals people have laying around their homes. “That all gets picked up by water,” he said. “Contamination is huge.” Addiscott said the cost of damages incurred is unknown.
Parksville Volunteer Fire Department and the Oceanside RCMP also attended the scene.
First responders were on the scene until 11 p.m. Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, many Parksville Qualicum Beach residents were left in the dark Tuesday.
According to BC Hydro, at peak times more than 8,200 people went without power. BC Hydro spokesperson Karla Louwers said Horne Lake, Errington and Bowser were “the hardest hit areas.”
Louwers said nine additional crews have been working on restoring power and by Wednesday morning only 50 homes were without power, most of which were in Bowser.
On Vancouver Island, more than 25,000 people were without power.
Environment Canada issued a wind and rainfall warning Wednesday morning for east Vancouver Island, forecasting gusts up to 90 km/h and rainfall to range from 40 to 70 mm.
Wind and rainfall warnings are issued when significant risk is expected from damaging winds and high rainfall.
Louwers said power was on and off throughout the area due to the weather, tree-related outages and restoration work.
On Tuesday, both Errington and Bowser Elementary were dismissed early due to power outages at the schools sending nearly 500 students home before schedule.
“This isn’t a common occurrence (sending students home early),” said School District 69 Superintendent Rollie Koop. “It’s a really challenging process.”
Koop explained district officials had to rely on one rotary phone and personal cell phones to contact all the parents of the students who were dismissed early.
“It’s a huge endeavor,” he said. “We don’t move down that pathway unless we have to.”
According to Environment Canada, the wind and rainfall are supposed to subside by the weekend.
Up Island, Courtenay declared a State of Emergency due to flooding on Tuesday.