Hi – I’m Jennifer Houghton, creator of the Grand Forks Flood Documentary, flooded Grand Forks resident, unofficial advocate for flood survivors in Grand Forks, BC.
I live between the marsh and the Kettle River. In 2017 my 530 square foot home was flooded with two feet of water. When I bought the house in 2016, I was told it hadn’t flooded in 20 years. When I asked around, I was told that when there is going to be a flood, the Fire Chief will declare a state of emergency and sandbags will be provided. I was willing to live with the possibility of having to get a little exercise every few years to protect my house from flooding.
Here is my flooded house in May 2017:
One Saturday morning in May of 2017 when the water started to rise around my house, I called 911 and asked for help. But the sandbags came too late and by the time we (my neighbors, many of whom are in their 70’s, and I) started putting them up, there was already 6 inches of water inside my living space. My house is a concrete slab on grade with no crawl space or basement. In 2017 there were a few other homes affected by the flood, but most of them only suffered damage in the crawl space or basement – not in the main living area. I spent the rest of 2017 trying to recover from that flood. I had to rip out drywall, insulation, OSB, the hot water tank, the shower stall, flooring, and deal with mold. It disrupted my life and impacted my job, my personal life, my finances, and my mental state.
Lucky for me, I had a wonderful friend who had a small cabin near Grand Forks where I could stay with my two big dogs while I renovated. Also lucky for me, I had a strappin’ boyfriend who helped me with some of the renovations.
In early 2018, I started to prepare for flooding that spring. I dug a trench around my house and installed weeping tile, a sump pit, and sump pump. I monitored online data on snow pack levels and Kettle River water levels and compared that data to the 2017 data. When it looked like it was going to flood again, I called the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) and asked when they were going to send out sand for us to start sandbagging. I was told that the RDKB cannot request funding for sand until a state of emergency has been declared but a state of emergency cannot be declared until the flooding had already started. This insanity motivated me to go to a meeting of our local watershed authority (it was a 5-6 hour meeting to which 10 minutes had been scheduled to talk about flooding). At that meeting I expressed my concern (ie. panic) about the flooding that was coming in 2018. I got the same response, “We can’t do anything until the flooding actually happens”, ie. there are no preventative measures being undertaken.
Again, luckily for me, there was a local pastor by the name of Gabe Warriner who was asking local gravel pits to donate truckloads of sand and dump them in the parking lot of his church. (He was able to give the gravel pit a charitable receipt). This amazing man Gabe was spending his days filling sandbags by hand, alone, in order to help out anyone who needed them. I took his first 6 truck loads of sandbags and surrounded my house. My home became the Sandbag Castle.
Here is a picture of me in front of my half-way sandbagged house in April 2018.
Then I got more, and more, and more sandbags from Gabe until I had a wall about 3 feet high surrounding my house. I thought I was ready.
Boy, was I wrong.
More on my story coming soon…
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