By Daniel Betts
Almost every week during the past month we’ve heard of tragedies befalling British Columbians. On July 13, in Johnsons Landing, B.C., four people lost their lives in a sudden mudslide. In Fairmont Hot Springs, B.C., surprised tourists were trapped by a mudflow for 24 hours. This past weekend in Grand Forks, B.C., an eleven-year-old boy was killed during a violent windstorm while attending a bible camp. In Sicamous, B.C., many homes were swept away and residents are still recovering. These incidents serve to emphasize the fact that one can never be too prepared, yet sadly, sometimes no amount of preparation can stop the awesome power of nature.
Some critics have been quick to point fingers at the provincial government but looking at the specific incidents that have occurred I don’t feel it is fair to do so. The provincial government cannot be expected to carefully monitor every watershed in the vast mountainous regions of the province anymore than they can legislate police on every street corner to prevent crime. Further, most people want less government control, not more. In the Village of Valemount, there were those that criticized the mayor and council for issuing a State of Emergency when, in their opinion, there was no obvious appearance of a threat. Yet sometimes threats are not obvious. Had someone lost their home or worse, had been killed, the village would have been trying to answer much different criticisms.
In the case of the boy who lost his life in Grand Forks, B.C., the sudden and violent windstorm had prompted an evacuation of the bible camp he was attending. Thanks to 100 km per hour winds trees were being ripped out of the ground or torn from their trunks and were crashing into cabins. What could have prevented this tragedy? Nothing except perhaps luck. Sometimes, despite the very best of efforts, bad things happen.
A recent report on climate change adaptation in Vancouver, B.C., suggests British Columbia can expect more intense and frequent rain and windstorms and calls on a complete flood risk assessment on the Fraser River. We may have to be more cautious in the future. I don’t think anyone can deny the weather has changed significantly in recent years. If our environment is changing then we all need to change with it and realize the dangers that exist in living in steep mountainous terrain. As human beings, our ability to adapt is one of the many factors that have allowed us to survive on our world for centuries. If government can help they should do so, but in the end it is up to us as individuals to assess our own safety, and the safety of our children, and act when the situation calls for it.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones during this difficult month.