It was luck, not advance planning, that caused our “Green Living” special section to print this week almost precisely on the anniversary of last year’s “atmospheric river” weather event.
Salt Spring Island certainly felt the effects last November with flooded and washed-out roads, but through a little bit of luck — and yes, some advance planning — we were spared most of the tragic brunt of that storm, which took five lives in the province.
We all saw the flooded homes and farms, washed-out roads, infrastructure damage, and thousands of British Columbians displaced. And we all agreed that, like planting a tree, the best time to prepare is yesterday, and the second best is today.
This was exemplified in iconic fashion this week with the first opening of the community sandbag filling station, courtesy our Salt Spring Emergency Program. Literally filling sandbags before the storm is the kind of advance planning we are glad to see; program coordinator John Wakefield counted 42 people who took advantage of the event, filling more than 300 sandbags on a clear, rainless day.
Advance planning can also include setting emergency meeting places for your household members; making grab-and-go bags, in case where you live becomes unsafe and you need to leave quickly; planning an evacuation route; signing up to receive emergency alerts from the CRD public notification system (www.crd.bc.ca/pans); and yes, taking early steps to protect your home and yourself, including keeping nearby storm drainage clear of debris and knowing how — and where — to lay sandbags when the rain comes.
Marking the atmospheric river’s anniversary, B.C’s Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnsworth noted we must “continue to adjust to the reality” of climate change, and noted work underway at the provincial level for better flood planning and mapping, and increasing funding for communities to mitigate disaster risk.
On a local level, islanders can (and do) advocate for additional help from the province for emergency preparation, while simultaneously recognizing our collective responsibility to ready ourselves for the next emergency.
Put another way: we are glad for all the luck we can get, but making our own is equally important.