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

District of Port Hardy considering allowing modular homes and short term rentals. (North Island Gazette File Photo)
Port Hardy considering short term vacation rentals and modular homes

Check out the online public hearing on Jan. 26

Creekside Apartment building. (Kimberley Kufaas Photography)
Half of the Creekside Apartment building reopens for tenants

Owners will be looking to rent out the other half of the building’s units tentatively by the spring.

Chris Voller with Gwa’sala First Nation hereditary chief Willie Walkus at a farewell gathering for Voller. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
North Island First Nations nominate RCMP officer for Reconciliation Award

Chris Voller nominated for work in the community over past nine years

Submitted photo of Town Park C Block apartment fire.
Apartment fire in Port Hardy forces residents to jump from building to save their lives

‘multiple people were transported to the hospital with injuries from falling’

Campbell River city council has given unanimous support to its mayor to continue the fight for the aquaculture industry on our coast. Black Press file photo
Campbell River city council unanimous in support of fish farms

‘I’m certainly not willing to roll over and accept a bad decision,’ says one councilor

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

Egg producers in B.C. aren’t obligated to reveal their production sites. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Officials say there’s not enough Vancouver Island eggs to meet demand

BC Egg Marketing Board doesn’t regulate labelling, supply needed from off-Island

A Courtenay resident labours to remove the snow build-up from around her car in February 2019. The area may see snow throughout the coming weekend. Black Press file photo
Snow, winter might not be done with Vancouver Island quite yet

Flurries, snow and cold temps predicted for the weekend for mid-Island

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Most Read