The waters of Sophie Creek swell around Rob Wagner and Crystal Maehder as they survey the washed out access road to their property in Paterson

High water levels maroon family in Paterson

A Paterson man has been marooned on his property after Sophie Creek flooded Highway 22 last Thursday.

No man is an island but for the last seven days Rob Wagner has felt what that would be like.

Along with his eight-year-old son, Marek, and his girlfriend Crystal Maehder, Wagner has been marooned on their Paterson property — eight kilometres south of Rossland off on Highway 22 — after Sophie Creek jumped its banks and flooded the highway last Thursday, wiping out both of Wagner’s access points from his property.

The flood waters have not abated since that day, meaning Wagner hasn’t been able to leave the property, nor has he been able to get to work, his truck stranded in a yard surrounded by several feet of water with no access points to the highway.

Wagner and Maehder each have made a single foray into Rossland — to pay taxes and to keep a doctor’s appointment — in the last week, but they have had to slog up behind the house and through the forest, hike across the slope, and then cross the fast-flowing, water-filled ditch and hope to hitch a ride into town.

“The water was so high here a normally dry area in front of our house turned into a four-foot deep lake,” he said Wednesday. “It’s unreal. We are marooned in Paterson.”

By last Thursday night Wagner’s neighbour, Rod Newton, a former Ministry of Highways employee, came down to the flood site with his own excavating machines — and he has doing most of the work to help clear the culvert and the ditches since.

The solitude and the solemnity of the situation settled in over the weekend, since Wagner and Maehder haven’t been able to leave the 25-acre property for a week.

On the weekend a neighbour dropped some groceries by the side of the road for them, and on Monday Wagner managed to get Marek to the highway and on the bus to school.

But it hasn’t been easy with spring beckoning and clients eager for Wagner — who works installing vinyl decking — to come and complete their home projects.

And with Maehder’s job ending at Red Mountain in mid-May, she was in the midst of an off-season job search, now cut short as her water-locked Toyota sits idle.

In order to keep cabin fever at bay, Wagner has kept busy shoveling the truckloads of gravel that have washed up on the shores of submerged driveway, using the rock to infill part of his yard.

He’s also chopped several cords of wood, enough that he won’t need to head out this year to lay in anymore for the coming winter.

“What do you do when there is a raging river running across the front of your yard?” he said. “But the landscaping is starting to look pretty good around the house.”

Seven days ago a spate of warm weather swelled the waters of Sophie Creek that runs underneath the highway and around 45 metres away from Wagner’s home, plugging the buried culvert and washing eight inches of water, logs, rocks and other debris over the asphalt.

Although the highway contractor for the area, Emcon Services Inc., is currently working on road — it was closed to one lane traffic as of Wednesday — the six-foot wide shoulders of the newly paved highway are completely eroded and the floodwaters fill the ditches.

The creek has breeched the highway three times since Thursday, Wagner said, but even though several inches of snow fell Tuesday night, the water level dropped almost three feet, giving Wagner some hope he might be leaving his island soon.

Access to the Paterson port of entry at the U.S. border two km. away has not been affected, but people are advised of the changing road conditions and there could be a brief wait at the spot where Sophie Creek intersects the highway.

Work is expected to continue on the highway until the situation and the waters abate, but the highway is still closed to one lane of traffic and significant work remains to be done on the road’s shoulders.

Wagner also was given an indication from the Ministry of Highways his access road, where it meets the highway, would be reconstructed as soon as it was possible.

Around the region other weather-related events have wrecked havoc on roads, with falling rock on Highway 3 from Christina Lake to Nancy Greene Lake junction (47.1 km) and Hwy. 3 23 km east of Castlegar, near the Salmo junction, being reported as washed out. That road is reduced to single lane alternating traffic.

Eighty km north of Nakusp a mud slide across Highway 23 has reduced traffic to one lane as crews attempt to clear the debris.

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