An unprecedented flood has subsided in the city of Princeton, BC, but the return to everyday life is far ahead.
Everything from souvenirs to furniture is strewn across the local streets, currently parked where the floods led them.
A thick layer of mud has settled in many homes and the basic infrastructure has not yet been put back in place.
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“It’s absolutely heartbreaking,” said Mayor Spencer Coyne.
“I know those people. They are people I went to school with, people I grew up with, people I have known all my life, and they have lost everything.”
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There are currently 300 homes under an evacuation order, and a further 1,100 are in evacuation readiness. Coyne could not say when those orders and warnings will be lifted.
The regional district was in and conducted damage assessments on all of the affected properties Thursday, he said, and each was given different colored maps indicating the level of damage.
However, some improvements have been made.
“The sewer system is slowly stabilizing,” Coyne said.
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“With water, we have 20 percent in our reservoir, so that’s a good thing, and right now Fortis is hopefully putting in the line that we’ve struggled to get into, and that will bring the heat back.”
They also help with nearby communities that are filled with mud before freezing temperatures complicate things further.
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With so much on the plate, Coyne was hoping the opening of Highway 3 would be delayed. It was opened Friday for important travel.
“Our biggest concern right now is the reopening of Highway 3 and what that means for safety,” he said.
“We’re going to get everything through our little town right now. And it’s not because we do not want (people) here, it’s just that we do not have the capacity right now.”
Almost every side street in Princeton is closed and they are still struggling to clean up and cause the infrastructure to stumble.
“You just want to put your head in your hands and cry,” he said.
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He said his concern is that if people get through, they will drive too fast and they will get frustrated and that will have catastrophic consequences.
“My message to the drivers right now is, if you come this way, if you come across Hope, Princeton, and you’re going over Highway 5A, take your time, be patient, and work with us,” he said.
“Wherever you go, try to refuel, get a bottle of water, have some emergency supplies in your vehicle with you before passing over the mountains. You never know what will happen over the mountains. ”
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The province announced that the route to the southern interior opened up for the movement of goods and persons traveling only for essential purposes, using Highway 7 and Highway 3.
Significant purposes for travel are defined in the Executive Order on Travel Restrictions through the Emergency Program Act. Checkpoints will be in place and travel restrictions will be enforced.
This progress will make it possible to move goods and supplies from the lower mainland to get to the rest of BC and other provinces.
The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure staff and motorway maintenance contractors have been working around the clock since Sunday to remove debris, repair road surfaces and reopen both motorways.
Motorists should expect sections of single-lane interchange traffic on Highway 7 and three sections of single-lane interchange traffic on Highway 3 east of Hope.
The province said the delays would be significant given the amount of important goods to be delivered and the many people eager to complete their journeys home and that it would be ideal if people could wait an extra day or two with travel if possible. This will help move important items on Highway 3.
“For drivers traveling for essential purposes, the ministry urges preparation and patience,” the province’s press release said.
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