BRITISH COLUMBIA

North Vancouver Flooding Damages Homes, Closes School

11/04/2014 08:51 EST | Updated 01/04/2015 05:59 EST
NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C. - As the rain kept falling, boulders started sliding and silt stacked up early Tuesday morning, North Shore homeowner Barbara Brinson relentlessly packed makeshift sand bags and began imagining getting into a new line of work.

"They said, 'That's it, we shouldn't have more water coming.' You'd start packing up and think, 'Finally, I can go in and get some rest and get warm.' And then the deluge would happen again," said Brinson, who's lived in the area more than 20 years.

"I think I'm going to change careers and I'm going to become some kind of a construction worker. I sure do know how to sling a shovel and push water with a push broom."

Brinson was among scores of residents awake half the night dealing with torrential rains that caused localized flooding and evacuations in the District of North Vancouver. On Tuesday, the community was hard at work cleaning up from wet weather not uncommon to the region but something that community hadn't experienced for many years.

"We all came together. Basically, it was the north side of the street helping the south side. They were fantastic," Brinson said.

Up to 86 millimetres of rain battered the region over 24 hours as a strong frontal system moved through British Columbia's south coast. Creeks overflowed, inundating streets, houses and some schools in the Lynn Valley area.

Heavy rainfall caused culverts in five different areas to overflow, said District of North Vancouver Asst. Fire Chief Michael Cairns.

"There's pretty substantial damage to a lot of houses," he said. "There was too much water flow. We did try to divert from houses as much as possible."

All available fire trucks from the district, as well as the City of North Vancouver and District of West Vancouver were called out, with between 10 and 15 homes evacuated at one point.

"In a lot of locations there wasn't a lot we could do," Cairns said. "Restoration crews will be working hard for quite some time."

About a dozen students joined their principal and custodial staff about midnight to lift boxes and electrical equipment from the floors of Argyle Secondary School, one of the storm's greatest casualties.

"We're in a fairly old building, so we're always looking up during the rain, expecting some leaks," said Principal Elizabeth Bell. "But we don't usually look down to see that kind of vast amount of water running through the building."

The school stayed closed Tuesday after two wings of the building received a good dousing. Water pooled to about 45 cm around the outside of the building, with up to four centimetres gushing through its inside hallways. Sand, soot and other debris was left behind.

"It was pretty exciting to have that number of students showing up and wanting to help," Bell said. "I was getting tweets or email from students saying, 'Can we come and help, what can we do?' The community here has been outstanding."

The school is expected to reopen Wednesday.

Meteorologist Andre Besson, with Environment Canada in Vancouver, said the rains that abated about 4 a.m. are normal at this time of year, but at least one element was unique.

"What is unusual with that system is a great deal of the rain fell in such a short period of time."

More rain is expected through the region from Wednesday afternoon through Thursday, though not nearly the same quantity as what already came down, Besson said.

Resident Irene Wood's home was spared, owing to its location on the upward slope of the street, but she was prepared to assist in the efforts.

"A lot of people are still out helping," she said. "It's a really great neighbourhood and everyone is talking. Everyone knows what yards are going to need to help and people will be out there in the next few days to rake away all the sand and debris."

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North Vancouver Flooding, November 2014