After receiving an early preview of winter rain, Salt Spring residents decided to prepare for the next storm in advance.
Dozens of islanders turned out to the new community sandbag filling station, above the community gardens at the Rainbow Road pool site, on Saturday, Nov. 12. The station was a coordinated effort by the Salt Spring Emergency Program, Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue, Emergency Management BC and the Salt Spring Island Parks and Recreation Commission — and offered free sand and sandbags, and made shovels available, along with “shockingly comfortable” gloves.
“We brought in some supplies last year during the atmospheric river, but didn’t deploy them,” said John Wakefield, Salt Spring Emergency Program coordinator. “We wanted to be pre-emptive this year for folks so they’re ready; it’s not the kind of thing you want to be doing in the middle of the incident.”
According to Wakefield, 42 people came out and filled 314 sandbags — a total of four yards of shoveled sand — before the station closed. Several people at the Saturday event said they were preparing after having experienced flood damage last year.
“Our road was completely destroyed,” said Mario McInally, who lives on Devine Drive. “A couple of driveways washed away.”
Typically for a community the size of Salt Spring, Wakefield said, the standard was to have several thousand bags on hand for an emergency scenario. For large-scale emergencies, machines can be deployed to assist with the bagging process.
“This is our first time doing it this way,” said Wakefield, “so we want to see how it goes and if there’s a demand.”
The Rainbow Road sandbag filling station will generally be open just for specific events like this one, he added, and when threatening weather — such as a “pineapple express,” a familiar kind of atmospheric river — appears in the forecast, an announcement will be made and it will re-open.
“This will be the station, at least for the foreseeable future,” said Wakefield. “All these departments need to collaborate to make these things come together, so big thanks to PARC and the parks staff, they’ve been great to work with.”
For more information about flood preparedness, visit the ow.ly/6Zrr30qoMJV website. To sign up to receive alerts in the event of an emergency, join the CRD public alert notification system: www.crd.bc.ca/pans.