Residents in Duncan, B.C., cleaning up, assessing damage after flooding

DUNCAN, B.C. — When 17-year-old Kelly Nicholls left his home in the Vancouver Island community of Duncan under an evacuation order on Friday, the water that had flooded the street was just touching the edge of his one-storey house.

A house along Beverly Street still sits in a pool of water

DUNCAN, B.C. — When 17-year-old Kelly Nicholls left his home in the Vancouver Island community of Duncan under an evacuation order on Friday, the water that had flooded the street was just touching the edge of his one-storey house.

By Sunday, the flooding had come and gone, and the Nicholls family was back at the house assessing the damage.

“When we first got out, the water was just seeping in, but at the end of it everything was knee-high,” said Nicholls as his family prepared to start cleaning up.

“Everything’s everywhere, there’s things everywhere, clothes, appliances — it’s just wrecked.”

A combination of heavy rain, melting snow and high tides caused the Cowichan and Koksilah rivers and several creeks to spill their banks on Friday, flooding dozens of homes in Duncan and the surrounding area.

On Sunday, the rain was still falling but most of the flooding had receded as residents gathered at a community meeting to talk about what happens next.

Nicholls said they were told about provincial disaster funding that will be available to help pay for expensive repairs. The province has said it will cover up to 80 per cent of costs after the first $1,000 and up to a maximum of $300,000.

“They said that they were going to pay for most of it, so we’re feeling OK about it,” he said.

The local regional district declared a state of emergency on Friday and initially placed about 300 houses under an evacuation order as water streamed around a network of dikes that were built in the 1960s.

The number of evacuees had since dropped to about 100 homes in Duncan, about an hour’s drive north of Victoria, and the North Cowichan district to the west.

However, people still under the order have been told they can return if they feel it’s safe and the district planned to reassess later in the day on Sunday.

Barry said even after everyone receives the all-clear, some residents will have to wait longer to live in their homes again.

“If you come back to your house and you’re one of the unfortunate ones that the water did get into your house, if it got as high as your bed, you won’t be staying there,” said Joe Barry of the Cowichan Valley Regional District.

Barry said locals are in relatively good spirits, and offers of financial support and other help have been pouring in.

There is rain in the forecast over the next few days, but officials aren’t expecting more flooding.

“The river may temporarily rise, but based on current weather forecasts, we don’t anticipate it going back up to flood stage,” the province’s environment minister, Barry Penner, said in an interview.

“It seems like the worst is behind us for now.”

Penner said the amount of rain the area has seen during the past week and the subsequent river levels are unusual for the region, but not unheard of.

“Our records show a similar amount of precipitation, river response back in 1990,” he said. “It’s not common, but also not unknown.”

The North Cowichan district started chlorinating part of its water system on Saturday as a result of the heavy rains and flooding.

The B.C. government said it sent extra equipment to the area to help with the flooding, including about 5,000 sandbags and two large water pumps.

It also provided a helicopter for city crews to use to fly over flooded areas to help better assess the damage.

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