Tom Jarvis speaks with a driver at the start of Bamfield Main on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020. Heavy rain from an ‘atmospheric river’ that hit the west coast of British Columbia on the weekend caused several washouts on the 88-kilometre road. (MIKE YOUDS/ Special to the News)

Storm strands travellers, cuts off only road access to remote B.C. community

Bamfield still waiting for promised road upgrades after fatal bus crash last September

  • Feb. 3, 2020 10:43 a.m.

BY MIKE YOUDS

Special to the News

Dozens of travellers spent their weekend stranded at either end of Bamfield Main as crews worked to repair damage from Friday’s rainstorm.

Western Forest Products was expecting the road to reopen but not until Monday at noon, three days after 250 to 350 millimetres of rain fell in a 48-hour period and swept tonnes of debris down mountainsides.

With the ground already saturated by weeks of steady rain, the storm triggered overland flows that halted motorists in their tracks late Friday afternoon. The route was cut off in half a dozen locations and a bridge at kilometre 46 was destroyed. More than half a dozen other routes in southern B.C. were closed by storm damage.

Closer to town, a few low-lying properties flooded. Shelter Farm near Cox Lake was underwater.

“It’s good for the soil,” said Guy Langlois, manager of the North Island College (NIC) vocational market garden. “It does affect our plans. We certainly can’t do any pre-season gardening.” The area used to flood on a regular basis according to a previous landowner.

Several groups from outlying communities spent the weekend in Port Alberni.

Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert Dennis Sr., part of a group from Pacheena Bay, made light of the road closure, joking that they had the weekend “to enjoy Port Alberni’s special magic.” Lots of other families were stranded as well.

“Our nation set up people in hotels right away,” he said.

But there was a more serious side to the storm. He couldn’t recall a similar circumstance despite rugged west coast weather and the road’s notorious reputation.

RELATED: Bamfield Road safety concerns resurface after fatal bus crash

“It was probably the biggest rain event any of us has seen in our lives,” Dennis said. “There is no last time. This is the first time we’ve seen a storm of this magnitude.”

They didn’t have the option of taking the Cowichan Lake route on account of major flooding there as well. Cowichan Valley Regional District declared a state of emergency Saturday after flooding closed Hwy. 1.

READ: Flooding closes Highway 1, Cowichan Valley declares state of emergency

This was the second weekend in a row that communities on the west coast of Vancouver Island were cut off. A rock slide caused by blasting on a Highway 4 improvement project cut off Ucluelet and Tofino for a few days. Heavy rain also saturated the area as an emergency bridge was erected near Kennedy Lake for single-lane traffic.

WATCH: Drone footage shows extent of damage in Highway 4 rockslide

Dennis’s biggest fear is what Bamfield community members will find in the aftermath of the most recent storm as they survey local streams where extensive salmon enhancement work has been done.

“That’s a lot of water and silt moving down different streams,” Dennis said.

By Saturday morning, storm silt had turned Alberni Inlet a muddy brown.

READ: two killed after bus crashes taking university students to Bamfield

The storm brought home once again the need for road improvements along the corridor. Upgrades were promised by the provincial government last year after a bus accident that claimed the life of two university students in September. The project has yet to be approved by Premier John Horgan, Dennis said.

“I get discouraged since the highway idea seems to be moving at a snail’s pace,” Dennis said.

BC FloodFirst NationsPORT ALBERNIStorm

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

 

Rapids surge below Sproat River Bridge Saturday. The river is swollen after a big storm dumped heavy rain on the west coast of British Columbia. (MIKE YOUDS/ Special to the News)

Just Posted

Stolen gargoyle returns to its perch in south Nanaimo

Petey, a concrete gargoyle statue, was returned by police after City of Nanaimo crew found it

RDN Transit to see rollout of 15 new HandyDart buses

Buses will have temporary protective barriers installed to prevent spread of COVID-19

RDN says water in French Creek still potable despite levels of iron, manganese

Strategy to improve water quality being established

United Way distributes $120,000 in federal funding to seniors in need during pandemic

Salvation Army, Eden Gardens, hospice society among groups granted money

Man who used to live in Nanaimo sought by RCMP on the mainland

Ajia Richardson unlawfully at large after failing to return to psychiatric hospital in Coquitlam

Mission prison COVID-19 outbreak ends, 9 new cases in B.C.

New positive test at Port Coquitlam care home

Beefs & Bouquets, May 27

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Pregnant B.C. woman catches COVID-19 days before giving birth

Michelle Hunter said it was like a horror movie when caught COVID-19

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Spirit bear possibly spotted in West Kootenay

A local resident spotted the white-coloured bear while on an evening trail run near Castlegar on May 27

B.C. businesses ‘can’t shoulder burden’ of COVID-19 sick pay

Trudeau’s plan should be tied to federal emergency aid

B.C. teacher reprimanded for sharing homophobic and sexist memes, making racist comments

Klaus Hardy Breslauer was accused of making a laundry list of concerning decisions as a science teacher

Nanaimo senior who was excessively speeding says her vehicle shouldn’t have been impounded

RCMP say they can’t exercise discretion when it comes to excessive speeding tickets

Two Nanaimo teens on a go-kart get Tim Hortons drive-thru order

Grade 8 students at NDSS answer grandparent’s challenge

Most Read