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Neighbours in B.C.’s flooded Sumas Prairie effort cleanup amid new storm concerns

By Heather Wright, Kevin Gallagher and Anthony Vasquez-Peddie

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    ABBOTSFORD, B.C. (CTV Network) — Still trying to clean up the devastation of last week’s storm, farmers in the Sumas Prairie of Abbotsford, B.C., are bracing for more rain this weekend.

After the area was flooded by days of torrential rain, with up to 120 millimetres more expected by Sunday morning, neighbours are helping one another pick up the pieces and salvage what they can.

Grant Bouwman and his family were back at their farm on Saturday after flood waters had forced them out last week. They were able to save their cows, but their barns and home were completely flooded.

“Farmers are tough, we’re resilient, we know how to keep going, but it’s not always easy,” he told CTV National News. “There’s a mental and emotional side.”

On Saturday, trailer after trailer, driven by friends and neighbours, pulled into the family’s property to help with the cleanup.

“It’s emotional, but at the same time it’s encouraging,” he said. “People want to help.”

As soon as water started flowing into the Sumas Prairie, the community mobilized.

“They just dropped everything and jumped in their pickup trucks,” Richard Bosma told CTV National News.

Neighbours were able to help Bosma rescue every single one of his animals, but while his cattle are safe, his home remains underwater.

“It was a little disheartening to see the water hadn’t gone down a little more, it was still about three feet deep,” he said. “There’s a slick of diesel fuel out there.”

The added storm this weekend has slowed down cleanup efforts, dropping more rain every hour on an area desperate for reprieve.

Crews in Abbotsford were racing Saturday to complete repairs to the Sumas dike, a crucial tool in the city’s defence against further flooding.

“We have done everything we can in a very short period of time,” mayor Henry Braun told reporters Saturday.

The dike failed during the storm last week, flooding much of the Sumas Prairie. The situation was made worse when the Nooksack River in Washington State burst its banks and spilled into the Sumas River, which flows north across the border.

Now, with more rain this weekend and another storm expected next week, there are fears the dike could be breached again.

“The unknown factor is how much water is going to come from south of the border,” Braun said. “The rain we can handle, I’m pretty confident of that, what we can’t handle is if the Nooksack overflows.”

Canadian troops, along with community volunteers, have been working to protect homes from further damage.

In the meantime, locals are doing what they can to get on the road to recovery.

“It could take weeks. It could take months,” Bouwman said. “Depending on how strong the dikes are and how much water keeps coming.”

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Nicole Bogart
(416) 384-5000

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Regional

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