June 6 1995
Free Press Files
Residents of Fernie’s Airport subdivision continue to pick up the pieces after the worst flooding in almost 50 years hit the area June 6.
A full day of driving rain combined with a late spring and quickly melting snowpack turned Coal Creek into a ranging river and drove the Elk River to a height of more than three metres.
Many families were bunked down for the night when the protective dike on Coal Creek gave way shortly after 8 p.m. By 8:30 p.m. part of the Park Avenue bridge had collapsed into the creek and the railway bridge 300 feet up the creek was heavily damaged.
According to RCMP reports, about 750 people were evacuated from the subdivision shortly after 9 p.m. By midnight, hundreds of Fernie residents were involved in a community effort to assist the victims of the flooding.
At the community centre, residents evacuated from their homes registered with the assistance of volunteers. Local motels and residents volunteered beds for the night, preventing anyone from spending the night in the community centre.
But many in the community did not sleep, instead spending all night helping city workers, fire department crews and search-and-rescue officials with sandbagging and rebuilding the areas worst hit.
At first light the next day, residents began to make their way back to their homes to survey damage. Maureen Aikman returned to her house and her husband after spending the night with her daughter Lindsay across town. In an interview June 7, Aikman said she was shaken by what she saw.
“At six o’clock this morning I had tears running down my face.”
Kim Sedrovic, a member of the fire hall and Provincial Emergency Program, said the work of neighbours in West Fernie saved an entire block.
Mayor Dick Mulholland, after visiting the flood-stricken areas, said he was stunned by what he saw. “I can’t get over the power,” Mulholland said. “Coal Creek was just a torrent.”
Except for one incident of looting, all the flood reports reflected heroic efforts by the community.
Flood damage in the Elk Valley has been estimated in the tens of millions of dollars.
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