Red Deer Advocate city editor Carolyn Martindale was among the vacationers who had to flee a mudslide at a resort in Fairmount Hot Springs, B.C., on Sunday afternoon.
Martindale, 53, and her boyfriend Cameron Fairbairn, 60, of Lacombe, and his mother Claire Fairbairn, 91, of Red Deer, had just arrived and unpacked at Fairmount Mountainside Villas when they heard some unusual noises.
“It was pretty hairy,” said Martindale by cellphone who was still at the resort on Monday.
“We looked out and the creek suddenly started to flow really fast and it was driving debris down the west side of our condo.”
On another side of the condo, muddy water and debris turned into a river, fast sweeping away their vehicle, a white Subaru Forester.
“It was swept down the hill, and landed with mud up to its wheels so they think they can get it out. But we have no idea what shape it’s in.”
Fresh in her mind was video posted last week of a mudslide down a mountainside at Johnsons Landing, flattening trees in seconds and sending debris into Kootenay Lake, further west of Fairmont Hot Springs. Four people are believed to have died in that slide.
“When I saw that dramatic video of Johnsons landing, it certainly made me aware when you see muddy water get out of the way.”
“I knew it was time to get out,” Martindale said about Fairmount mudslide. They fled on foot, helping along the elderly Fairbairn.
“I could see our pathway out was rapidly getting depleted. We had to go along a retaining wall where the mud hadn’t got to yet along the creek.”
It took about 45 minutes to walk and dodge the creek, the muddy water and debris on their way to the local recreation centre, not knowing what was going on.
“We didn’t know if half the mountain was coming down or what the cause of it was.”
Luckily, Cameron Fairbairn and his family were very familiar with the resort, she said.
“I would have been completely lost. My initial instinct was to head to high ground. He convinced me to go across to the rec centre. That we’d be safer, at least with communication ability.”
Some people inside the rec centre were unaware of the trouble.
“We just come from a river of mud, rock and debris and we come into the rec centre and there are six kids watching TV as though nothing is happening.”
They waited there rather than retreat further. Claire Fairbairn was having some trouble breathing so medical authorities were on alert but not required.
Mud and debris came within a few metres of the rec centre deck, Martindale said.
After the initial rush of water, she was still worried water had dammed up somewhere and would come out in a torrent of water, logs and rocks.
When it was deemed safe at about 11 p.m., the three were driven by staff through mud and debris to another condo where they could sleep.
The mudslide had made its mark on both sides of that condo too.
No one was injured at the resort.
Martindale said on Monday morning they still couldn’t access their original condo, including their suitcases and clean clothes.
“There’s a ton of rock that’s football or soccer ball-sized all over what used to be a driveway and parking area.”
Remarkably that condo sustained little damage as trees acted as a dam in front of the building, she said.
“The creek seems to be moving and there is still a lot of mud and debris over a number of fairways and greens here.
“It’s surreal to see (golf course) flags in the middle of pools of mud.”