State of emergency continues in Vancouver Island communities swamped by heavy rain and floods

A state of emergency remains in place in some Vancouver Island communities after flooding forced residents from their homes and shut down roads in the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) over the weekend.

Heavy rain hit the area Friday and into the early morning of Saturday, prompting the district to issue evacuation orders to a number of homes, close roads and declare a local state of emergency Saturday morning as water levels rose in rivers and streams in the region.

Conditions are improving, according to Ladysmith mayor and CVRD chair Aaron Stone, but while the evacuation order has been lifted the state of emergency remains. 

"An abundance of caution in these situations is the right prescription, for sure," Stone said Monday. "It was a rude awakening for everyone involved."  

Clean-up efforts began Monday at Russell Farms Market, in Chemainus, after a torrent of water swept into the store.

Adam van der Zwan/CBC

"It was like a bomb in there. We were ... wet all the way up to our waists," said co-owner France Bournazel.

She said everything needs to be replaced, and the store won't reopen for up to six months. All salvaged food will go to those affected by the flooding, 

Stone said approximately 23 people from the community of Crofton and the Halalt First Nation were evacuated from their homes over the weekend with help from the district and placed in hotels. More members of the First Nation were relocated by the band council over the weekend.

Halalt Chief James Thomas said all 41 reserve homes were affected by the septic systems failing, due to water pressure in the ground. Fourteen of those were completely flooded and will now be uninhabitable for "maybe three to five weeks."

"It's a huge impact. People just don't know what [to expect]," he said, adding that the properties are now waiting for Emergency Management BC assessments.

Support centre open Monday, Tuesday

In a statement, the district said it is opening a resiliency centre at the Cowichan Community Centre, where people affected by the flooding can access counselling, clean-up information and health support, and get answers to questions about insurance and building assessments.

The centre, located at 2687 James St. in Duncan, will be open Monday and Tuesday from noon to 8 p.m. PT.

As of Monday morning, most roads in the region have reopened, with the exception of Canada Avenue in Duncan. 

Residents are asked to monitor the DriveBC website for up-to-date road conditions. Transit service in the area has resumed.

Waste-water overflow

The heavy rains also caused an overflow at the Town of Ladysmith's waste-water treatment plant. The municipality issued an advisory recommending people and pets stay out of the water along the town's shoreline until further notice. 

There were a series of flood warnings and flood watches issued on Vancouver Island over the weekend.

As of 8 a.m. Monday, the province's River Forecast Centre downgraded the southern Vancouver Island region to a high streamflow advisory, meaning no major flooding is expected.

The CVRD's state of emergency will remain in place until further notice. Up-to-date information is available on the district's website.