Almost 100 days after Todd and Kim Davidson fled their home on Fenchurch Avenue in Princeton, just ahead of raging floodwaters, they are returning.
“I’m elated,” said Kim. “I am so happy to be glamping out in my house. It’s my own bathtub, my own toilet. I don’t care if it’s unfinished. So what if we have to set up a hot plate and a microwave?”
In the wake of the Nov. 14 disaster which displaced at least 180 families, their properties were either damaged or outright destroyed.
Todd and Kim, with their cat, spent three months living in local motels.
The day after the flood the couple was processed by Emergency Support Services (ESS) and assigned a subsidized local motel room. Many in similar circumstances were moved from Princeton to accommodations in Penticton, Kamloops and cities in the Lower Mainland.
Todd’s father was evacuated from an apartment building on Luard Avenue and placed in a hotel in Kelowna. It’s unsure how long he will be able to stay there, or where he might go next.
The first month was the worst for the Davidsons.
For two double beds and a kitchenette, they were charged $2,700 per month, in a town with a population of 2,800.
“It was gouging,” Kim said, describing tile held together with duct tape and a general lack of maintenance. A request for fresh linens and sheets was met with a demand for a $40 surcharge.
They moved to another motel where they were able to meet regularly with other evacuees. Here, they enjoyed cleaner and more comfortable arrangements that included impromptu bonfires and a pizza party on New Year’s Eve
“You don’t need to worry about me wanting to go on holiday this summer. I don’t want to see the inside of a motel again,” said Kim, while also expressing she is tired of restaurant food.
The Davidsons and one other family are the only ones so far to return to their homes on Fenchurch of approximately 20 properties.
While bedrooms on the second storey were protected from the flood, everything downstairs and in the basement, and a backyard shop, was beyond saving.
“All the (downstairs) rooms are stripped to the bare joists and we are building up,” Todd explained, remembering the night of the flood that water reached the tops of the kitchen counters.
In the past two weeks, with hired contractors, they’ve been able to hang drywall, paint and order new appliances.
“Right now we are out of pocket about $70,000, but ultimately it will be close to $100,000.”
Because of its location, flood insurance was not available for the century-old home, with its Victorian flair, that the couple purchased in 2018 as their forever place.
Moving from Langley, they fell in love with the house. Todd is the manager of the Princeton and District Museum and until she was disabled by arthritis Kim worked in the hospitality industry. They’ve been married 40 years.
Todd remarked – with an ironic smile – that the day they took possession in June almost four years ago they arrived to find an evacuation alert notice on their new front door, issued because of high waters in the nearby Tulameen River.
“Maybe I should have listened.”
The house was badly flooded in 1995 and afterwards was raised several feet in hopes of keeping it safe.
The couple qualifies for help from B.C. Disaster Financial Assistance, which will pay up to 80 per cent of repair costs. However, Todd does not expect to receive the highest level of funding from the province, as the program is set up to cover only “bare bones” costs.
Still, he is thankful for their good fortune, knowing that so many of his neighbours don’t possess the resources needed for recovery. “I think about it all the time. We are incredibly fortunate.”
Kim said she initially considered leaving Princeton, given the extent of the damage to their home, and the worry that the river could flood again.
“If it wasn’t for the support of the people here I probably would have just said, “Screw it, I’m out of here.’”
She experienced care from both friends and strangers and believes that’s the nature of a unique small town, with graciousness extended even to relative newcomers. There were constant check-ins, deliveries of home-baked goods and offers of help.
“The mayor showed up one day in his gumboots just to see if we were okay. That would never happen in a big city where no one even knows your name…I’ve just bawled my eyes out. It’s been so overwhelming.”
Todd gets visibly emotional when trying to relate his gratitude for the kindnesses extended. During the initial clean-up period, when most of their possessions were piled with mud in the front yard, 22 people turned out to dig in. There were organized groups and also roaming bands of good-willed residents with shovels and buckets.
Todd and Kim are also thankful for financial assistance from the ESS, Red Cross, the Princeton Flood Relief Fund organized by the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen, and the Princeton Baptist Church.
”Even with this disaster I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” said Todd. “Or maybe because of this disaster I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
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