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Rain finally subsides, but flood damage extensive in Cowichan

Still no direct access to Chemainus from the south due to road closures
Russell Farm Market is under water again. (Photo submitted)

The worst of the rain has ended and even given way to blue skies, but the damage has been done.

There was extensive flooding in many parts of the Chemainus and Cowichan Valleys Sunday night and into Monday morning.

A deluge of rain during that time led to the closure of the Trans Canada Highway, with flooding between Mays Road four kilometres north of Duncan and Mount Sicker Road two kilometres south of Chemainus that remains in effect. There is no detour with the flow of water on the Chemainus River bridge and flooding at Pinson’s Corner cutting off access to Chemainus on those routes.

Related story: UPDATED: Island Highway remains closed in and out of Cowichan due to flooding

Crofton Fire Department members were stationed at the Paper Excellence pulp mill to turn motorists around attempting to go from Crofton to Chemainus.

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

“It’ll be dark before the road will open up, I’m guessing,” added fellow department member Dave Martin.

Those hoping to reach Chemainus from the south end via Westholme Road were also out of luck.

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 truck 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 lad 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.

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

It’s a similar situation as Jan. 31, 2020 when a massive downpour combined with a King high tide caused massive flooding in the same region, with many residents having precious little time to escape the rising waters.

Unlike last time, however, “the nice part is they did give us forewarning,” said Newman.

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

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

The Westholme area has been heavily impacted again, as it was in 2020.

Russell Farm Market has been completely flooded again.

A Facebook posted indicated the market was on the lookout for a zodiac or boat to rescue its goats.

“We are appealing to anyone in the community that has experience handling goats and search and rescue. The goats are trapped in their hut as the door surged shut on them sometime in the last 24 hours. We have reached out to SPCA disaster but they have indicated they are not equipped to deal with this.”

The goats were standing in water, but safe. The fire departments are unable to help so Russell Farm Market reached out to search and rescue for assistance.

The Halalt First Nation was also hit particularly hard during the 2020 flooding and many households have been engulfed by water again.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District declared a local state of emergency applying to many areas.

Related story: Cowichan Valley Regional District declares state of local emergency due to rain

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)
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)
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)
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 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)

Don Bodger

About the Author: Don Bodger

I've been a part of the newspaper industry since 1980 when I began on a part-time basis covering sports for the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle.
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