Johnsons Landing in limbo following July landslide
A bowl, a butter knife and serving spoons have new meaning for Mandy Bath and Christopher Klassen since the devastating landslide tore through their Johnsons Landing home.
As the recovery process continues in the community, Bath and Klassen have been working with the help of an excavator to recover bits of the life they lost in the slide.
“We found a few things,” said Bath. “It’s been sort of heartbreaking to see the incredible destructive power of the two landslides and what they did. Things aren’t just broken they’re pulverized. It’s terrible to see. We’ve found the odd thing. All the crockery is broken except for one bowl. That one bowl is a survivor and it means a lot to find these little things. We’ve found a butter knife and a couple of serving spoons that were very dear to me because they were quite old.”
One of the most surprising discoveries came when Klassen, after locating their house that had been lifted and moved from its foundation by the slide, dug down around the four corners of the house to find their car in the basement.
“The house had been pushed off of its foundation, but they found the points of the corners of the house and excavated in just the right place and went right down to the basement and there they found the car of all things,” said Bath.
“The car had rolled and turned, and the house had moved. The car had fallen into the basement and was laying on top of [Klassen’s] tool chest and somewhat protecting them, as much as a heavy car can do that. It was weird to dig down and find your car buried in your basement.”
Though many of Klassen’s tools are rusted and destroyed, some will be salvaged.
As the weeks have passed since the slide, Klassen and Bath, like other members of the small community are looking at what comes next.
On Monday, Bath said the excavator would likely be refilling the hole it dug and once they’ve gathered every bit of leftover insulation and debris, they hope to make the property a memorial.
“We want it to become a memorial site because in there is not only obviously our dear cat who died, but also the ashes of the lady who built the house,” said Bath. “Her ashes along with the ashes of my father-in-law, Christopher’s father were on the mantelpiece. We feel like it’s a triple grave site. We hope when it’s smoothed over, we will turn it into a place where we can be and know what’s under there and commemorate them. That will take a while, but we will plant grass and trees and try to make it beautiful again. That’s obviously the long term view.”
Many members of the community who were directly effected by the slide are slowly having utilities like hydro, phone and water returned to them.
Kate O’Keefe, a Johnsons Landing resident who lost water as a result of the slide has worked with other members of the community to restore water.
“I was just at a meeting with my neighbour,” said O’Keefe on Monday afternoon.
“We were talking about the next steps on the water system and that was about two and a half hours that we sat and had that discussion. In some sense it is what life would normally be like, but the time that I would normally spend doing the other things in my life has been abbreviated because of all the other needs that we have to take care of.”
She said there is one permanent home, a rental home and the residences of some part-time members of the community who are still without water.
“I would have to say all the water restoration that has been done so far is all temporary at this time,” said O’Keefe.
While the community is optimistic about the future, she said the residents are exhausted and very stressed.
“Everybody is pretty much getting on with their lives and trying to make the best of it,” she said. “It is a lot of adjustments to make. There is a lot of grief to deal with in terms of people we’ve lost either through death or through properties being wiped out and displaced. There is a whole new environment and community structure to adjust to because we lost people in our community so dynamics change. We still have lots and lots of work to do.”
Since the slide, there have been various government agencies and organizations involved in the recovery and emergency relief of the community.
While some aspects of the work done by the Regional District of Central Kootenay and the province has been appreciated and applauded by the community, O’Keefe said in some cases it is a little slow and confusing.
“It is definitely a long tedious process when there are a lot of different groups involved,” she said.
“One of the main things for us at the present time is the fact that almost every decision that we need to know about in order to get on with our lives, and in some cases for people who are displaced to get on with their lives depends on the geo-tech assessment, that isn’t going to be completed until spring. That is an awful long time to wait for answers.”
O’Keefe said the response from the surrounding communities including supplies, materials, money and energy in terms of volunteers has been appreciated.
“The community has been so supportive and that has done a great deal to hold us together,” she said.
In the weeks following the slide, the regional district has been responding to various issues from the community.
“First there was the emergency stage and now they are in the recovery stage and they are looking at some longer term things. Some things are unmet needs of people who were effected and are yet to get help,” said RDCK recovery manager Deb Borsos. “We have also been addressing issues around access and roads at various points in the community. Long term water is another one they are looking at.”
There is still an evacuation order in effect for the area even though the boundary has been moved since the slide.
The regional district has also been getting belongings back to residents who were displaced from their homes.
There are people inside the evacuation zone, who never left following the slide and Borsos said there are unique issues in dealing with those residents.
“The people that are in the evacuation zone and chose to stay are still there and some of them are looking at power issues, getting power back and access is limited,” she said. “The ones that are in there are there and are getting by. There is only one house that is missing all utilities.”
In the coming weeks, Borsos said there are a two important things that will happen.
“There will potentially be some slide remediation,” she said. “There is going to be a workshop about that in mid-October and that will be good. I can’t really say a timeline, but getting the geo-techs going is vital to moving forward. They need to go in and get their work done so they can do their report and that information will be valuable in going forward in making decisions around the slide and what happens with it.”