Crofton fire department members Eric Johnson, left, and Dave Martin turn vehicle traffic around at the Paper Excellence Crofton mill, with no access to Chemainus available along Crofton Road. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Crofton fire department members Eric Johnson, left, and Dave Martin turn vehicle traffic around at the Paper Excellence Crofton mill, with no access to Chemainus available along Crofton Road. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Insane amount of rain hits the region

Many long-time residents have never seen water levels like this

It was deja vu all over again.

The Chemainus, Crofton and Westholme areas were hit hard by flooding after a deluge of rain that started Friday and continually picked up steam until the skies opened up like never before with an even heavier downpour Sunday afternoon and evening and into early Monday morning.

With the high accumulation of water, it wasn’t long before streets were washed under a wave of water and closed to traffic. Access to Chemainus from the south was completely cut off for several hours, with the Trans Canada Highway and the backroads through Westholme and Crofton all blocked.

Crofton residents could drive to Duncan via Osborne Bay Road without any problem, but Crofton firefighters were turning people around at the Paper Excellence pulp mill, with flooding a little further down Crofton Road at Bonsall Hill and Pinson’s Corner making the road impassable.

“We’ve got to convince people to stay home or stay off the roads,” said firefighter Eric Johnson.

It wasn’t until late Monday evening that one lane of the Trans Canada Highway was reopened in each direction from the area between Mount Sicker Road and Mays Road that was previously blocked.

There was also flooding at Henry Road in Chemainus and no detour available for a while.

As always, Westholme was the hardest hit, with the Chemainus River rising rapidly and spilling its banks throughout the area. The Halalt First Nation lands were heavily impacted, as was the section all the way to the Trans Canada Highway where Russell Farm Market and Garden Centre was engulfed in water as well as lower portions of Mount Sicker Road.

As if the market itself wasn’t enough to worry about, three goats were trapped in their hut as the door surged shut on them.

The market reached out to the community for help. The goats were standing in water, but safe, and all three poked their heads out of the hut to let everyone know they weren’t happy but OK.

The goats were picked up by Coastal Animal Services and have been taken to the Nanaimo SPCA which is well set up to care for livestock, including a lovely heated barn.

Russell Farm and the Halalt First Nation face another long road ahead to recovery. It was all reminiscent of Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 2020 when high-rising water levels were brought up substantially in a matter of minutes, backed by a King tide.

The only saving grace this time was fair warning that the atmospheric river was coming and bringing heavy rain, but no easier for the Halalt, Russell Farm Market and others swamped by the flood waters to take again.

Miraculously, the clouds finally parted and skies cleared Monday afternoon, paving the way for completely opposite conditions and sunny skies into Tuesday.

The River Forecast Centre lifted all flood warnings and watches on Vancouver Island Tuesday, although high stream flow advisories remain posted for areas west of Parksville and Duncan.

The centre said levels on the Englishman, Cowichan, Chemainus and Koksilah Rivers peaked and receded overnight Monday.

Roberta Hicks de Plumpton grew up in the same home where she currently resides on the banks of the Chemainus River near the Chemainus River bridge. She’s seen many floods over the years, but this is “absolutely the worst I’ve seen it,” she conceded.

Her husband Clive, now deceased, started building fortress-like walls more than 30 years ago. After they moved back to the house one Halloween, they woke up to the roar of the river that December and Clive dedicated himself to building The Great Wall of Westholme in the spring, Roberta noted.

“I am so proud of him, this is the first time the flooding has breached the back wall you see with the gate. It was coming over in waves, something never seen before. Clive has passed now but his walls will remain as a testament to his foresight.”

The water was four feet deep and more in spots along Westholme Road, said Johnnie Pierre of JSK Traffic Control Services.

Jen Newman and North Cowichan Councillor Rosalie Sawrie live right on the edge of Westholme Road where the water suddenly goes from ground level to five feet deep over a short distance. Some motorists with jacked-up trucks tried to cross Monday, but quickly turned around when they realized they weren’t going to make it without risking a stall or serious damage to their vehicles.

Newman and Sawrie shut off the power and were packing up to leave for a while until the water abated. There’s 69 acres behind their household.

“It is completely under water,” said Newman.

“It’s actually above our basement level so we’re about to leave.”

“We’re going to load up our van and get out of here. We’ve got a couple of options of friends, they’ve got basement suites and stuff.”

They’ve lived in the residence for six years and “this is the worst I’ve seen it,” said Newman.

Neighbours who’ve been there 15 years told them this is also the worst they’ve seen flooding during that time.

Newman was out early Monday morning, with many people turning around at their residence to avoid the rising waters.

“I think it’s really important to check in on your neighbours and make sure everyone’s OK,” advised Sawrie.

B.C. Floods 2021Road conditions

 

Jen Newman lives on the edge of Westholme Road where the water suddenly goes from ground level to up to five feet deep. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Jen Newman lives on the edge of Westholme Road where the water suddenly goes from ground level to up to five feet deep. (Photo by Don Bodger)

The level of the water on Westholme Road heading into Westholme from the south was more than five feet deep in spots. (Photo by Don Bodger)

The level of the water on Westholme Road heading into Westholme from the south was more than five feet deep in spots. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Johnnie Pierre of JSK Traffic Control Services mans the barricades at Bell MacKinnon and Westholme Roads, with no passage into Westholme due to high water levels. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Johnnie Pierre of JSK Traffic Control Services mans the barricades at Bell MacKinnon and Westholme Roads, with no passage into Westholme due to high water levels. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Russell Farm Market is under water again. (Photo by Dayna Staton)

Russell Farm Market is under water again. (Photo by Dayna Staton)

Jen Newman and North Cowichan Councillor Rosalie Sawrie live on the high side of the spot where Westholme Road is submerged with water. They were packing up their things Monday to head to alternate accommodations as water surrounded their home. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Jen Newman and North Cowichan Councillor Rosalie Sawrie live on the high side of the spot where Westholme Road is submerged with water. They were packing up their things Monday to head to alternate accommodations as water surrounded their home. (Photo by Don Bodger)