Residents evacuated from Parry’s RV Park in Parksville after the nearby Englishman River flooded through late Sunday night began returning to check on their trailers and belongings Tuesday, Jan. 30.
The residents returned to find their homes intact, but extensive damage to the park entrance after floodwaters washed out a culvert and the main entry road, tossing slabs of asphalt and concrete retaining blocks around and ripping out a fence, shrubs and at least one light pole.
Loose items in the park, including lawn furniture, toys, a wheelbarrow and other tools, and even a small boat, were pushed to the end of the property to lodge against the inside of the park’s fence or, in some cases, carried across Martindale Road to land in the ditch on the other side.
“This is the worst we’ve ever seen,” said Jean Brien, who has lived in a trailer home in the park for 24 years with her husband Ray. “We had a nice day, then it rained and it rained — and we knew it would flood.”
Two inspectors from the Regional District of Nanaimo’s emergency services waded through standing water that remained in the park Tuesday, and the RDN announced Wednesday that building inspection, the BC Technical Safety branch and Island Health are all working with the property owner to assess the damage and the condition of the dwellings.
In addition, floodwaters created a new channel that is diverting water directly into the park.
“They’ve just gotta clean up and get rid of the water,” said Jim Mitchell, who has served as caretaker/manager of the park while the owner is overseas. “They’ve gotta stop the water coming in, I guess. They’ve just gotta re-route the water, and it’ll be fine.”
Mitchell said he had “no idea” who would be responsible for diverting water from the new channel and back behind a dike that runs adjacent to the RV park.
Martindale Road was reopened Monday after having been used as a boat evacuation route early that morning.
Twenty-two residents and eight pets were evacuated by Arrowsmith Search and Rescue overnight Sunday and into Monday morning, Jan. 29, after floodwaters rose well up onto the skirting around the year-round trailer homes.
“Two men came down here, blowing whistles,” Brien said. “I said, ‘Are we going to be able to stay?’ They said they were going to come and get us because they didn’t know what the water was going to do.”
Arrowsmith Search and Rescue president Nick Rivers told The NEWS Monday that water in some parts of the park reached eight feet in depth during the peak of the flooding.
Brien said rescuers on Sunday night brought a small boat through the gate into her yard, boarded Jean, her husband Ray and their two dogs, then paddled back into the RV park’s laneway to transfer them to a larger boat.
Brien said she and her husband finally arrived at a local hotel shortly before 4 a.m. Monday. Assistance and accomodation is being provided by the RDN.
“I want to commend the work of emergency service personnel and volunteers,” RDN chair Bill Veenhof said in a written release. “They have responded quickly and efficiently to the extreme weather situation. We will continue to monitor river levels and the weather forecast, and provide information to the public.”
The RV park is located on a low-lying stretch of Martindale Road that is no stranger to flooding. Brien said overflow from the Englishman River washed over Martindale one week earlier without causing anyone trouble.
“Some of the new people (in the RV park) kind of panicked,” she added. “You can’t explain to them how fast the water comes in.”
Brien returned to her trailer Tuesday to do laundry, but said she and Ray were still being housed at the hotel until RDN emergency services gives the all-clear to return for good.
As to considering moving to a less flood-prone area, she shrugged off the idea.
“No,” she said. “We love it here.”
Notices and alerts will be posted on the regional district website at www.rdn.bc.ca/emergency-services#alert.