Sue and Jim Burdeyney paused from cleaning the mud to take a quick picture. Submitted photo.

‘It was quite terrifying:’ B.C. couple recalls mudslide surrounding them

‘It went a couple of feet at least, right all around us. It was quite terrifying.’

Sue and Jim Burdeyney were in their home on Loon Lake Road, four and a half kilometres from Highway 97, when a mudslide came right for them.

“It’s pretty bad. It’s horrible actually. It’s a disaster zone out here,” Sue told 100 Mile Free Press.

The pair were sitting on their porch outside their mobile home earlier this week when the mudslide started.

“It was all coming right at us and it just wasn’t stopping. First it was the thunder and then it was raining so hard – we’ve never seen it rain that hard – and then it started hailing like huge big pieces,” Sue said.

RELATED: More mudslides close highways north and south of Cache Creek

Suddenly, part of their top field located across the road vanished as the fast moving debris made its way across the property.

“Then we looked over and another part was gone and another part and it’s all running towards us,” Sue said. “It came through our cow pen, ripped the fence right out, went all through the garden, which is a huge vegetable garden. Ripped that fence out [and] came all right over the retaining wall.”

Mud and water kept pouring until it was surrounding their home with just a few feet of dry space. Sue said she didn’t know what else to do except grab their passports and money, both worried the trailer might get pushed off its blocks.

But the pair were trapped, Jim said, knowing the mudslide would take them away with it if they got too close.

Luckily, the skirting below the trailer ripped, allowing the mud and debris to flow underneath the trailer.

“If not, it would have built up on the side of the trailer and either flipped it over or chewed the bottom right out and there would have been nothing left,” Jim said. “I visualized right away that we wouldn’t have been able to spend another night in the place.”

Irrigation system devastated by mud

This isn’t the first natural disaster Sue and Jim have have seen strike their acreage in recent years. Much of the area around them were burned in the Elephant Hill wildfire just last summer.

“The forest fire, it burned everything up on the hill. There [is nothing] to hold any water back and we just got that rain and it washed everything from the mountains and the hillsides,” Jim said.

For ranchers, mud can become a big problem, Sue explained, and cause serious damage to irrigation systems.

“It ripped through all our alfalfa fields and it took the irrigation pipes with it. We haven’t truly accessed the damage up there yet. It’s too heartbreaking,” she said.

“We just saw everything we own floating by in this river. I have a little veggie stand up at the street and everything went through, out the back wall of it. Our chicken pen, we’d just been working on the chicken pen, the poor chickens they’re like in six inches of mud in most places, more in others. It’s devastating.”

Jim and Sue first worked to clear the road, which was completely blocked to traffic. The pair and their neighbours have started cleaning up their properties, but the damage is extensive.

“If had to take a rough estimate not counting the labour to clean it up, I’d say there’s about $200,000, $250,000 damage,” Jim said.

Sue said she’s been shovelling mud for “hours and hours” out of her chicken coop just to keep her chickens alive.

While the mud was knee-deep at first, some spots have drained or have been cleaned up by the pair and their neighbours.

Meanwhile, Sue said she’s still worried about the risk of further mudslides.

“They say there’s still gonna be a few more thunderstorms this little weather pattern isn’t over plus everything’s loosened up now so I don’t know what’s going on up there in the hills but everything is still unstable.”

In the meantime, neighbours are already helping Jim and Sue out with what will be a long and tiresome process.

“I’ll probably never be able to clean the fields up but my shop is gonna take months just around the house and the driveway is gonna take a couple of months,” Jim said.

RELATED: Highway 97 north of Cache Creek reopens to single-lane alternating traffic


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