Curtis Sagmoen helps Gary Hucul ferry sandbags in an old hot tub over to a fence in Hucul’s back yard in Silver Creek on Saturday, May 6.- Image credit: Martha Wickett/Salmon Arm Observer.

Community rallies when river rises

Silver Creek residents receive big help from strangers and friends.

On Monday, anxiety had turned to gratitude for Maria Otting and Thomas Koppel.

“It was really like angels came to help us,” said Otting Monday, her voice catching with emotion.

She is referring to all the people who came to help save her family’s home in Silver Creek, which was overwhelmed by the high water of the adjacent Salmon River.

It all began Friday evening when a neighbour called to let them know water was coming into their back field.

“We didn’t realize how bad it was going to be,” Otting says, explaining that they raced up to the Silver Creek Fire Hall to fill sand bags. Although they’d picked up some the week before, they really didn’t expect to have to use them.

Coming back, they put up a wall, but realized, “Oh my goodness, this is coming really fast.”

It all happened within a couple of hours, she says.

They kept sandbagging till one in the morning, hoping it would hold.

However, when they looked out at 5 a.m., their entire front yard – in the 500 block of Salmon River Road – was flooded, like a lake.

“The flower boxes were floating and it was starting to come into the house,” Otting says, explaining their storage room was filled with water.

She turned to the Internet, asking for help via websites such as Shuswap Everything Friendly Goes, Salmon Arm Buy and Sell and her own Facebook page.

“We were just panicking.”

She explains that her extended family lives with them, so they were all in the same predicament.

But the community quickly responded, with people bringing equipment, truckloads of sand and help galore.

One man who she didn’t know had posted that if anyone needed help, just ask. He was true to his word.

One friend brought five young Mennonite men, “who worked like horses.”

Even a friend who restores fire trucks brought a pumper, but it got stuck in their yard when a bank gave way. Getting it out was another project altogether.

Otting recites a long list of people who came to help.

“Really, just the people coming together is the overwhelming moral of this story. This community is just amazing, Everyone helps each other and cares about each other.”

Their barns are full of things they’ll lose, but Otting views it philosophically. “It’s just stuff, it can be replaced. We will have to have a big throwing-out party.”

She said they’re running a dehumidifier in the house, are bleaching and cleaning now and will have to replace drywall.

Compared to what some people have been going through, she feels lucky.

“With the devastation over the whole area, I feel more of a fortunate person with minor damage. I’m praying everybody has help.”

Otting notes that a person who stores a boat at their place is now stuck on the other side of the Sunnybrae landslide. The owner was hoping to get their boat in order to escape via lake, but there’s no way to get to it in its now-flooded location.

Otting says her family’s concern now is the possibility of more rain and nearby bridges getting jammed.

“We’re keeping the sandbags everywhere and praying no log jams.”

She again expresses her gratitude.

In Silver Creek, she says, “Everybody just shares around here, that’s how everybody is. It’s incredible, it’s how it should be, it’s like the olden days. Over everything, this is what shines through.”

Next door, Gary and Alice Hucul have been working nearly round the clock dealing with the pond in their backyard and water seeping into their basement.

Their work, too, started on Friday, when they put up a sand berm to stop the water.

“We thought we had everything under control,” Alice says. “We added a few more sand bags to be safe.”

About 3 a.m. they thought they’d do one more check before they went to bed. But sleep was about to become a scarce commodity.

“There was water in the basement, the water table had come up so high.”

Saturday afternoon a throng of people was helping to sandbag.

“It’s a great group of friends and people we’ve never met before,” smiled Alice.

With Gary in his chest waders, an old hot tub was being used to ferry sandbags over to a far fence.

Pumps and hoses were taking water across the road.

Alice, a longtime resident, said she hasn’t seen water like this at their place for 28 or 29 years.

“Even then it wasn’t this bad. There’s way more water this time… I’m sure it was really brought on by that storm (Thursday night).”

Posted by Salmon Arm Observer on Friday, May 12, 2017