Alicia Gray says she never felt so useless watching the video of the flooding in Grand Forks.
So the Rossland business owner decided to do something about it. She closed her business- the Bombshack clothing store- last Thursday and headed for Grand Forks.
“I didn’t sign up or anything, I just walked up to where they were sandbagging,” she says. “They have a system down, you just squeeze your way in and go.”
Gray was one of several Rossland residents to lend a hand to neighbours in need, heading to Grand Forks to support victims of the flooding there.
Last week spring run off overwhelmed the Kettle and Granby Rivers there, causing the worst flooding in the town in 70 years. More than 2,900 people were told to leave their homes, and the damage will likely run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Gray got into the groove, and says her group filled two dump truck’s worth of sandbags in the space of two hours.
“I felt like a 90-year-old when it was over,” she says. “I never felt so sore in my life.”
The scope of the disaster touched Gray.
“It felt like such a drop in the bucket. I was glad I did it and when you are there you see how many hands it really does take,” he says. “You see how many bags you fill, how many get on a truck, and you see how it doesn’t go very far.”
Grey isn’t the only Rosslander pitching in.
The Kootenay Robusters Dragon Boat team put down their paddles and picked up shovels to help with the sandbagging efforts in Christina Lake and Grand Forks.
Because of debris and wave action on the lake, all practices were cancelled, but the opportunity to get a good core workout was still available and paddlers from Rossland, Trail and Castlegar have driven over to the Boundary region almost every day since flooding started.
“We have quite a few members from Christina Lake and Grand Forks,” explained Gail Ross, a boat team member.
Groups are still actively sandbagging at both the arena and the airport in Grand Forks, most days beginning early morning and going to late evening.
Humans aren’t the only ones who need help.
Ida Koric of Husky Emergency Adoption and Transportation (HEART) and Amanda Hamilton of Tails pet supplies in Rossland were organizing foster homes for displaced animals.
“They didn’t need to move any, but they did need crates so we drove several and some dog food down there Friday night,” said Koric.
Supporting flood relief
If you can’t help fill or deliver sandbags, donations of food and water are being welcomed at sandbagging locations for volunteers.
The Red Cross is active at the curling centre. The Salvation Army is on site and providing food for evacuees.
The Boundary Community Food Bank is currently operating from Blessings Boutique at Gospel Chapel. It is in need of some items: canned tuna, pasta sauce, cereal, granola bars, personal care items, Puritan stews, chunky soup. The group has donation bins at all three grocery stores, or donations can be dropped off at Gospel Chapel on Tuesday or at the Grand Forks Funeral Home.
Blessings Boutique in Grand Forks is actively receiving, sorting and sending out items. They will be open Monday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for anyone who needs clothing. According to a Facebook post on Sunday, they currently have enough donations.
More help needed
Seeing the disaster first hand touched Gray, she says.
“It’s so devastating. It’s one thing to see it on the news, it’s a completely different emotion when you see it in person. It’s real, you can empathize, you can see what it would be like for you.
“You drive past businesses and they’ve put everything into it,” she says. “I have the Bombshack here… and it would be heartbreaking, even with insurance, and all that stuff… and it’s just the start of work for them.”
But Gray was also affected by the resilience of the community.
“I saw folks standing on the side of the road with wheelbarrows filled with their most precious items, waiting to be picked up,” she says. “A few hours later I am sure I saw them helping with the sandbagging. From losing things to helping with the flood… it’s awesome.”
Gray encourages anyone to lend a hand if they can. The water is predicted to come up, and she says she and her partner may head over the pass to lend a hand again.
“You can even just drive for the day. Here we drive 45 minutes to sit on the beach at for Christina Lake, or an hour to Nelson to shop or sit on beach or for dinner. That’s what we do here,” she says.
“So drive an hour and just go and do it. Then you can come home, have a nice warm bath and be thankful.”