Last Sunday Charmaine Bellamy received a text message from her son in B.C., saying he was stuck on the road due to a mudslide ahead, but hoping they would move again soon. Eventually, though, the mother learned things were much more serious.
Her son Christian Pollock, 25, and his partner were stuck between two mudslides with no way out.
"I was texting with him and then it occurred to me, I need to just call him," said Bellamy.
"What if this is the last time I get to talk to him?"
Pollock grew up in Saskatoon before moving to Victoria for university.
The Saskatchewan man, his partner and her dog were travelling through BC's Okanagan region by car after visiting her family, he said.
They were on Highway 7 before Agassiz, said Pollock, when they got stuck.
"We didn't really know exactly what was happening, but the traffic had been bad all day," said Pollock.
"So it wasn't that strange."
Couple collected rainwater
After hours and hours of at a standstill, the couple started wondering.
First they thought there was just "some debris" in front of them, Pollock said. He started talking to people around them and eventually realized how bad the landslide in front of them actually was. The couple also learned that there was a mudslide about a kilometre behind them.
Pollock said the situation spiraled from there.
"We realized that actually some lives were in danger," he said. "Some people had heard screams and stuff like that. Luckily, we weren't there for that."
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Even though there was no imminent danger to their lives, it was a scary situation, said Pollock.
The student kept texting his mother and trying to find out more about what was going on. With spotty cell service, the couple had very little information about what was going on, said Pollock. Everyone was trying to figure out what to do.
"We started trading food with some of the people around us and … collecting rainwater," he said. "We didn't really know exactly how long we were going to be there."
Night in the car
Eventually, with no way out, Pollock and his partner had to spend the night in the car.
The couple was not prepared for an emergency situation like this, he said, but luckily they had some food from his partner's mother with them.
"It was definitely not comfortable staying in the car and it was a bit cold," he said.
"Maybe for the best, we didn't know exactly how sketchy this situation we were in was until the morning."
On Monday, the couple received more information. When terms like "rescue operation" were used during a press conference, Pollock fully realized how dangerous their situation was.
"That was pretty scary, honestly," he said. "We were pretty anxious to get out of there."
When talking with his mother in Saskatoon over the phone, Pollock tried not to sound too worried.
"It's this weird feeling of like, he's totally safe right now," said Bellamy.
"But he could be dead, you know, in an hour or in five minutes … if another slide comes down and there's no way for that to go anywhere."
Pollock and his partner were starting to get a little more hopeful when they heard the news about potentially being evacuated by train or helicopter, he said.
Around noon, helicopters were circling the area and eventually picking up people, and Pollock shared the news with his mother.
"He sent me a video and it looked like it was going to land right on their car," said Bellamy. "It was kind of crazy."
All the couple could take with them was one bag each and their dog.
The big helicopters were airlifting groups of up to 25 people out of the area, according to Pollock
It "was quite surreal," he said. "Certainly our dog didn't appreciate it."
The helicopters brought the people to Agassiz, where Pollock and his partner stayed with a couple who welcomed them into their home.
Flying back home
On Tuesday Pollock and his partner went to nearby Chilliwack, hoping to catch a relief flight out of the area, said the student.
"The airport was just absolute chaos," he said. "They were doing their very best to manage it. But I think they were just totally overwhelmed."
Some pilots were volunteering to fly people for free, but because of flooded runway lights, the couple was stuck for another day.
On Wednesday they were finally able to fly to Vancouver, where Pollock took a ferry home to Victoria.
As of Friday, the law student still doesn't know when he will get his car back, he said.
"It was a very complicated situation, a lot of complicated feelings," he said. "We're just happy to be safe at the end of the day."
While he is anxious to get back to university and catch up on missed school work, his mother is very relieved and happy that her son is safe, said Pollock.
She is "looking forward to seeing me at Christmas time."