I broke out the Christmas music last week, despite my informal rule that I don’t start listening to it until Dec. 1 (you can have too much of a good thing, as my time spent working in the Christmas shop of a large British department store proved beyond all doubt). Given the week we’ve all just been witness to, however, it seemed an entirely reasonable thing to do. I needed all the happy, warm and fuzzy feelings I could get.
That Mother Nature is right royally peeved with us all is pretty obvious. The “atmospheric river” that we’ve all heard so much about, and which was the cause of the torrential flooding that claimed the lives of four people near Lillooet and one on Highway 8 near Spences Bridge, devastated Sumas Prairie, broke several highways, destroyed heaven knows how many homes, and displaced thousands, is being called a “1 in 50 year” event, and as a historian it’s hard to argue with that: the records show that we had similar events in 1894, 1948, and 1990.
That would indicate that we don’t need to fear another such event until about 2065 or thereabouts, and this is where the historian in me wishes I could be around then to see if the pattern holds, or if this level of flooding starts to happen more frequently over the next half-century. If something like this occurs again in 2065, will an article about it start out “Massive flooding on a scale not seen since 2021 …”? Or will it start with a much more ominous “Massive flooding, of a scale that has become all too familiar in recent years …”?
Only time will tell. In the meantime, it’s been amazing to see how fast work has been progressing on getting the rail and road lines through the Fraser Canyon up and running again. Last week in this space I wrote that I hoped the Powers That Be would pull out all the stops to get the canyon highway open again before they started to work on the Coquihalla, and while I doubt anyone in Victoria read my words and thought “By George, she’s right; let’s get onto that, pronto!” it seemed an obvious thing to do (so of course I figured that it wouldn’t happen).
Well, it’s good to be proved wrong, is all I can say. In addition to all the reasons I gave last week — it used to be the main north-south highway route, it’s at a lower elevation, it doesn’t get the dumps of snow, and it seemed to have less damage than the Coq — there’s the fact that no one lives along the Coquihalla, whereas the Fraser Canyon is full of communities large and small, and quite a large number of people who depend on it as their way of getting anywhere. I don’t know about you, but between one thing and another I think these residents have suffered more than enough this year. An early Christmas gift in the form of a reopened highway would be very much appreciated.
I’ve also been fascinated by the photographs showing the progress of the work at Tank Hill, where CP Rail and the Ministry of Transportation have been throwing everything they’ve got at getting the rail line repaired. I have to think that all the work involved in carving out access roads for the rail equipment will carry over to highway repair, which leaves “only” the washout at Jackass Summit to deal with before wheels can roll along Highway 1 once more.
I realize that this will still leave a lot of work to do on other highways, not least of them Highway 8 between Spences Bridge and Merritt, which has apparently seen a staggering 18 washouts and collapses. I hope that the people living along that highway are not forgotten by Victoria, and that they’re at least given some kind of plan — as quickly as possible — as to what will happen to their highway and their properties, many of which cannot be accessed except by air. If anyone in Victoria is reading this, please — pretty please — take note.