Sue and Jim Burdeyney were in their home on Loon Lake Road, four and a half kilometres from Highway 97, when a mudslide came right for them.
“It’s pretty bad. It’s horrible actually. It’s a disaster zone out here,” says Sue.
“We watched it happen,” she says. “It was all coming right at us and it just wasn’t stopping. First, it was the thunder and then it was raining so hard, we’ve never seen it rain that hard, and then it started hailing like huge big pieces.”
They were on their porch as it started happening.
“We were going ‘Oh wow, look at this. Look at this.’ Then we looked up into our top field, which is across the road and part of the field was gone. Then we looked over and another part was gone and another part and it’s all running towards us. It came through our cow pen, ripped the fence right out, went all through the garden, which is a huge vegetable garden. Ripped that fence out [and] came all right over the retaining wall. We have a mobile home, modular home and the mud just kept pouring. The mud and water just kept pouring and pouring and pouring over and we’re watching it rise and rise. It went a couple of feet at least, right all around us. It was quite terrifying. At some point, I grabbed the passports and any money we had and we just might have to go. ‘Like, is this trailer gonna go off its blocks or what?’”
You couldn’t get off the porch or it would have taken you away, says Jim.
“What really saved our modular home is, it hit the skirting and it ripped the skirting right off because it was already about two feet high there and it went right underneath the trailer and tore the skirting out on the other side of the trailer and carried on. If not, it would have built up on the side of the trailer and either flipped it over or chewed the bottom right out and there would have been nothing left,” he says. “I visualized right away that we wouldn’t have been able to spend another night in the place.”
It affected everything, says Sue.
“We just saw everything we owned floating by in this river. I have a little veggie stand up at the street and everything went through, out the back wall of it. Our chicken pen, we’d just been working on the chicken pen, the poor chickens they’re like in six inches of mud in most places, more in others. It’s devastating.”
As ranchers, the mud is a big problem, says Sue.
“All our irrigation was on. It ripped through all our alfalfa fields and it took the irrigation pipes with it. We haven’t truly accessed the damage up there yet. It’s too heartbreaking. We’re just trying to clear out right around our house. My husband Jim has a loader. He cleared the road. The road was totally blocked. People were trying to get through and they were high centering and everything.”
The areas around them got burned by the Elephant Hill wildfire last year, says Jim.
“The forest fire, it burned everything up on the hill there [is nothing] to hold any water back and we just got that rain and it washed everything from the mountains and the hillsides, which is part of my property also, right through the fields and it ruined all my hayfields, probably 75 round bales of hay. Not only that but the fields are toast now you can’t even reuse them.”
They usually would still get a third cut off of it as well, they both say.
They’re not the only ones who got hit by the slide, but some of their neighbours as well, says Sue.
They’ve contacted their insurance company but based on their conversation with them, they’re not very hopeful they’ll get anything. Meanwhile, the damage is extensive, says Jim.
“It put about a foot and a half of mud in my shop and my shop is like 32 by 50. I have hundreds of dollars worth of tools and equipment in there and it probably damaged about $75,000 just in my shop. It just a disaster it’s a mess,” he says “If had to take a rough estimate not counting the labour to clean it up, I’d say there’s about $200,000, $250,000 damage.”
Currently, they’re working hard to clean up as best they can.
Sue says she’d been shovelling mud for hours and hours out of her chicken coop just to keep her chickens alive. She hasn’t cleaned them off yet but at least one section has dry ground and new straw. She says she’s got them wandering all over the place because she doesn’t want to put them back in their coop which is still full of mud.
At first, it was so deep that you would sink in just about to your knees, but it’s getting better in some spots now that it’s drained and they’ve cleared some.
They’re not really sure where to turn to for help, says Sue.
“We really would like it if someone from some type of agency would contact us. We don’t know who to contact,” she says with a bit of a tremble in her voice.
Sue says they’re still worried about further mudslides as well.
“They say there’s still gonna be a few more thunderstorms this little weather pattern isn’t over plus everything’s loosened up now so I don’t know what’s going on up there in the hills but everything is still unstable.”
Overall, the mudslides make an already tough year even tougher.
Jim says he probably worked something like 351 hours fighting the Elephant Hill fire with the Loon Lake Volunteer Fire Department last year. The mudslides come a little less than a year before most Loon Lake residents were allowed to return.
“We kinda got through that [and thought] it’s all okay eh and when this thing here started raging down we were standing on the porch we couldn’t go nowhere and I started filming a little bit of it as it was racing down “
While they have some neighbours helping them out, it’s going to be a long process, says Jim.
“I’ll probably never be able to clean the fields up but my shop is gonna take months just around the house and the driveway is gonna take a couple of months.”
Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart, says they haven’t heard from anyone yet but can help point people in the right direction if they call or email her office at 250-453-9726 or jackie.tegart.MLA@leg.bc.ca.