Jonathan Nolan, Michael Nolan, Hope Johnson and Willow the cutest dog hanging, out at the Kwa'lilas Hotel while they wait to be able to return home to Rivers Inlet. (Zoe Ducklow photo)

Wuikinuxv First Nation evacuation to Port Hardy extended to seven days

Rains have not slacked off, keeping landslides a present threat

Around 30 people from Rivers Inlet were evacuated to Port Hardy last week because unusually heavy rainfall is threatening floods and landslides in the small valley community. The Wuikinuxv First Nation reserve is accessible by boat — three hours from Vancouver Island — or a 45-minute flight to Port Hardy.

It took six helicopter flights to evacuate everyone who chose to leave — some folks stayed behind to monitor the situation. Initially, evacuees were told they’d stay in Port Hardy for three days. But the rain still hasn’t lessened, so the evacuation has been extended at least until Thursday, Nov. 5.

The rains meant kids weren’t able to get home in time for Halloween and had to improvise from the hotels.

Barney Walkus and Carina Johnson’s three sons had their costumes ready — 13-year-old Aiden was going to be ghostface from Scream, 10-year-old Mason wanted to be a clown, and five-year old Tristan was all set to be Jason from Friday the 13th.

Unfortunately, the costumes were left behind in Rivers Inlet, so Friday they went out hunting for new characters.

“Rain drops were like this big when we were leaving,” Walkus said, holding his fingers together to show the size of a quarter. “You could feel it hitting you.”

He and Johnson chose to evacuate because of their sons. He didn’t want them to have to experience a last-minute, middle-of-the-night emergency evacuation like Johnson experienced as a child. They also brought their two-year-old pug, who made friends with everyone she met.

READ MORE: Wuikinuxv under evacuation order, more rain in forecast

Hope Johnson and her partner Jonathan Nolan also evacuated with their 12-month-old son Michael Nolan. The landslide risk was too great, Hope said.

The Oweekeno village is on a flat section of land between two mountains with a river running between the massive Owikeno Lake and Rivers Inlet, the sound that extends eastward into B.C.’s rugged central coast. The village butts up against an impressive mountain that can become a forbidding threat for landslides.

Hope, 23, said her lawn was so saturated that rainwater was pooling on it.

“If my grass is like that, imagine what’s going on up in the mountains?”

If a landslide were to come down the mountain, it would bring with it all the rocks and gravel and trees with unstoppable force right onto the little landing where Oweekeno is situated.

“It could happen at any time. You could just be making breakfast and then, boom. The risk was too high for me,” Hope said.

She and Nolan, 24, came to Port Hardy in a helicopter Wednesday afternoon (Oct. 28) with Michael on their lap, one duffle bag of clothes, baby food, diapers, dog food, and their dog Willow at their feet.

They were prepped for 72-hours, but as of Monday, Nov. 2, still don’t have a confirmed date to go home. Nolan is missing work, and the three of them have run out of clean clothes. While there is a basic laundry service in Port Hardy, it means taxiing downtown with a baby and dog in tow (dogs aren’t allowed to stay in the hotel alone), so it seemed easier to just buy new clothes.

So far, no significant slides have occurred, but the rivers and streams are pulsing with rapids. Rain has been pummelling the small village since Oct. 27, and shows no sign of slackening.

BC Emergency Management has been running the evacuation in tandem with local emergency services directors at the Regional District of Mount Waddington and Wuikinuxv First Nation. Representatives have flown over Rivers Inlet to understand what’s going on, and an engineer is on site evaluating the risk of a landslide.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


flooding

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lake Trail Middle school in Courtenay. File photo
Lake Trail Middle School closed due to threat

The credibility of the threat is being assessed and the investigation is being completed

The 19th annual Gingerbread Village & Teddy Bear Baskets Silent Auction runs online from Dec. 1-18. Photo supplied
Crown Isle’s annual Gingerbread Village & Teddy Bear Baskets Silent Auction goes online for 2020

Crown Isle Resort and Golf Community hosts the 19th annual Gingerbread Village… Continue reading

Two of the weapons seized in a Nov. 8 traffic stop in Black Creek. Photo supplied by RCMP
RCMP seize guns, drugs in Black Creek traffic stop

Two arrested in connection with incident

Canadian Tire Courtenay’s Owner Bert Heeringa and General Manager Keith Pistell displaying the donated sanitizer. Photo supplied.
Courtenay Canadian Tire donates 2,400 litres of hand sanitizer to local not-for-profits

Organizations can request sanitizer via the Comox Valley Community Foundation

Christmas will look a bit different in Cumberland this year, not only because of COVID restrictions but due to changes from BC Hydro about hanging decorations on the poles. Record file photo
Snowflakes a no-go for Cumberland’s power poles

Village, business association looking to promote shopping local for holidays

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The BC Coroners Service has published updated reports on illicit drug toxicity deaths and fentanyl-detected drug deaths to Oct. 31. There were 162 illicit drug toxicity deaths reported in October. Pixabay photo
Drug toxicity levels killing more than five people daily: BC Coroners Service

The latest data from the BC Coroners Service says five people a… Continue reading

FILE - This May 4, 2020, file photo provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, shows the first patient enrolled in Pfizer's COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.  Pfizer announced Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, more results in its ongoing coronavirus vaccine study that suggest the shots are 95% effective a month after the first dose. (Courtesy of University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP, File)
VIDEO: B.C. planning for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the first weeks of 2021

The question of who will get the vaccine first relies on Canada’s ethical framework

This undated photo issued by the University of Oxford shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
Canada can make vaccines, just not the ones leading the COVID-19 race

Canada has spent more than $1 billion to pre-order seven different developing COVID-19 vaccines

British Columbia Premier John Horgan speaks during an announcement about a new regional cancer centre in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. Horgan is set to introduce his NDP government’s new cabinet Thursday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP cabinet built to tackle pandemic, economic recovery, says former premier

Seven former NDP cabinet ministers didn’t seek re-election, creating vacancies in several high-profile portfolios

The COVID-19 test centre at Peace Arch Hospital is located on the building’s south side. (Tracy Holmes photo)
B.C. woman calls for consistency in COVID-19 post-test messaging

‘Could we just get one thing straight?’ asks Surrey’s Deb Antifaev

Most Read