By Andru McCracken, Andrea Arnold and Laura Keil
On Saturday July 4th, a mudslide severed the connection between residents on Mountain View Road near McBride and the outside world, and with new slides still coming down, resident Ed Zimmerman wonders when and how the road will re-open. Nine properties were evacuated on the weekend, but at least 30 residents have been trapped behind the slide.
Today the Regional District began shuttling residents across the river via boat so they can access essential services.
But for the farmers, it’s still a potentially dire situation.
Zimmerman’s family runs a dairy farm with 74 milking cows and on Monday they ran out of feed.
Quick action on the part of the Minister of Agriculture and other local farmers led to a helicopter drop of 6 bags of feed across the Fraser River.
“The cows would have got really out of sync and we would have lost a lot of production for the next couple months if we didn’t keep them fed. Dairy cows suffer if the feed isn’t consistent.”
For now, the feed problem is resolved but he said they are still dumping 1,800L of milk each day the road is closed. Zimmerman said the Dairy Board cooperative is sharing in the losses.
Also on his mind are the animals from a neighbouring hobby farm – chickens, pigs and sheep. The sheep have been in his stock trailer since Saturday afternoon, as he didn’t want to risk passing disease to his dairy cows. He needs a place to put them. The owners are still under evacuation order.
He said the farmers on Mountain View have a lot of hayland on the other side. Now many have machinery trapped on the slide side.
“Our crop at home is all done but there is 300km of hayland across the valley – it all has to be harvested and some of our equipment is on this side and some on that side.”
“It will be very inconvenient if we can’t make hay like we usually do,” he said.
Fuel is another thing – he said they only have enough for another week.
“You can’t run a farm without fuel.”
If the power goes out they’ll be in trouble, he says. The hydro pole by Joyce Godfrey’s is being eroded.
“When that goes down we’re all out of power. Water is rushing right around it.”
“We’d have to get fuel in to run the tractor to run the generator. And we need power to milk our cows.”
He said the creek that used to run by Chiupka’s is now running through the properties on the far side of the slide.
He said most private backup power systems are not designed to last a week and If they don’t get a road through, BC Hydro can’t access the power pole.
For the people trapped, however, they have been managing and there is plenty of food for now.
“This community has been working together tremendously well on this end,” Zimmerman said.
The Regional District says it’s been working ‘day and night’ to help those affected.
Regional District Director Dannielle Alan said the emergency boat service is not enough. “We need some serious help from the Province on this.”
Scott Monroe, a university students home for the summer, said he and his parents Bryan and Brenda are doing ok, but he describes the situation as “spooky.”
“I think everyone’s been watching their water systems.”
They are roughly 3km from the Willox Creek slide, but their own drinking water creek has doubled in size in some places and the dam is filled with mud. They
have added filters and have had to change them out several times already.
Most people have creeks that run through their properties, he said.
Alan is concerned that the road closure will compound economic problems already in play.
“With COVID-19 hitting our economy so hard, we need to be able to support the industry we have left. There is a dairy farm, a mill, a tree planting operation, a number of independent contractors with heavy equipment stuck behind that slide,” she said.
Alan said the health and safety of the residents is their primary concern.
“The plight of these small but vital businesses is of great importance as well,” she said. “I am so thankful that no lives were lost and my heart goes out to the people whose homes have been lost or are at risk.”