Floods and wildfires are now normal life in small-town Canada

21 November 2021

Published by https://www.theguardian.com/

CANADA – When flood waters swept away the highways in and out of Tricia Thorpe’s small town in the Canadian province of British Columbia, there was no way in or out for days. For a while, it seemed the road out of her property would be destroyed too.

“My eldest daughter thought I was going to flip out when there was no road access out,” said Thorpe, who lives in the small community of Lytton in Canada’s mountainous west, nearly 185 miles (300km) north-east of Vancouver by road.

“But we’ve been through so much now that sometimes you’re sort of numb as to what’s going to happen next.”

She had good reason to be emotional – the devastating floods arrived just four months after much of her town burned to the ground during one of the worst wildfire seasons in the province’s history. Her own home and farm were completely destroyed in the July blaze. Thorpe spent weeks in a shelter and came back to find that the remains of some of the animals that had burnt to death in the fire were still on the property.

Thorpe is just one of hundreds of thousands of people in western Canada who are becoming used to catastrophic natural disasters both in summer and winter seasons, as the effects of climate change lead to “once-in-a-hundred-year” events striking much more often.

Three of British Columbia’s worst wildfire years have taken place in the last four years, and the widespread floods and mudslides last week took place after roughly a month’s worth of rain fell in a matter of days, leading to slides that tore apart highways and homes.

At least four people have died and about 18,000 people were stranded after all the major highways connecting Vancouver to the rest of the country were blocked by destroyed bridges and dangerous slides at points.

After all the destruction in recent years, Thorpe was prepared to take care of herself. She had extra food, water and gas to hunker down for days, and considered herself lucky that her new home wasn’t one of many that were damaged or completely destroyed in the floods.

“We were cut off from the rest of the world,” said Thorpe.

Others in the region’s mountain towns were even less fortunate. Roughly 30 miles to the east, the town of Merritt faced severe flooding when the river that runs through the community overflowed and swept through entire streets and homes.

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