Singer-songwriter Leeroy Stagger was asleep on the living room couch in his home near Victoria, B.C., last week when he awoke to the sounds of his kids getting ready for school — and then the voice of his wife, Cobe.
There was some yelling and expletives, Stagger told The Homestretch on Wednesday, before Cobe said: "Leeroy, there's water in the basement."
That's where the musician formerly of Lethbridge, Alta., had built his music studio after moving to British Columbia in 2020.
'I'm thinking, you know, whatever, a couple inches or something," Stagger said.
But when he got up, he saw it: Water was coming up the stairwell, about six inches deep. In a panic, he called his dad and a friend, who both live close by.
"I just said, 'Help, there's water' … [and] we raced to the basement and started hauling out guitars," Stagger said.
"My drums were in the water. My guitar amps were in the water. The studio computer was in the water."
By the time they got back upstairs, Stagger said, the water had risen to about three and a half feet — about a metre.
Much of the gear that was lost had been collected over 20 years of being a musician.
"It's irreplaceable," he said.
'It was surreal. It was like a dream'
Stagger was born in Victoria but spent years as a mainstay in Alberta's music scene before he and Cobe moved back to B.C. with their two sons.
Upon arriving, they got to work building the basement studio that featured instruments, modern and vintage sound equipment, and murals Cobe made.
When disastrous, deadly flooding began sweeping through B.C. last week, Stagger said he thought his area would be spared.
But there's a creek in his backyard, and it had swollen to many times its normal size.
"When I went upstairs and went on the porch to catch my breath after I'd kind of rescued everything, I finally saw what was happening," Stagger said.
"It looked like the Bow River was in my backyard. And my jaw hit the floor. It was surreal. It was like a dream."
'We're lucky and grateful, too'
Others in the neighborhood who lived beside that creek took a beating during the flood, Stagger said.
In the end, he was able to salvage about three-quarters of the gear downstairs, including a 1957 Gibson J-45 guitar that was on a stand and off the floor.
"Some people have lost their living spaces in the neighborhood," Stagger said.
"So as far as that goes … we're lucky and grateful, too."
But the studio was his livelihood, and he said it will take eight months to a year to repair.
"I'm looking for a space — a commercial space or any kind of space — that might be an option in the city, but as you know, it's very expensive on the West Coast," Stagger said.
The flooding prompted friends to start a GoFundMe, and Stagger described the gesture as humbling and beautiful.
"It's overwhelming. I would have never have asked for that," he said.
"But now that it's rolling, it's a huge relief, and it's humbling to see just how wide the circle of community is that I have amassed."
Asked whether the flood made him rethink the decision to move away from Alberta, Stagger laughed.
"My stuff would be a heck of a lot drier right now, wouldn't it?" he said.
"I always, always will have a special place in my heart for Lethbridge. It's where my kids were born, it's where I got sober, it's where we bought our first home.
"But you know, life is life. You got to keep trucking. Can't look back."
With files from The Homestretch