Merritt residents are scrambling to save their flood ravaged homes | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Merritt residents are scrambling to save their flood ravaged homes

Lenora Fletcher's home in Merritt is one one of many that were severely damaged by flooding.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Lenora Fletcher

Flood waters are receding and repair and recovery work is beginning in the B.C. Interior after a series of torrential storms.

Some Merritt residents are fighting mud, mold and cold temperatures as they try to save their homes that were badly damaged in the flooding of the Coldwater River last month, Nov.15.

For resident Lenora Fletcher, it is a race against time to clean out and dry her basement before winter temperatures freeze a thick layer of mud onto the floor. She said the flood water that ravaged the house was eight feet high and took a dead bolted door down.

“My downstairs is a write-off,” Fletcher said. “Everything has to go. We are digging through mud trying to get to the floor. The drywall and insulation has to be stripped off. There is already mold growing but thankfully no rodents.”

READ MORE: Merritt evacuees live in trailer in Walmart parking lot for nearly three weeks following floods

Fletcher said a helping group from the community has been carrying her damaged furniture and large appliances to the lawn for garbage pickup. She said the homes in her community have five foot high piles of damaged household items and muddy drywall on their properties.

“The first few days it was just me and my daughter working on the mess,” she said. “It took us two days to make a path into the entry area. The mud was a foot deep, wet and heavy. We are now using two wheelbarrows, six big buckets, flat shovels and snow shovels. We are trying to get everything done before it all freezes solid.”

Lenora Fletcher's flooded basement in Merritt.
Lenora Fletcher's flooded basement in Merritt.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Lenora Fletcher

Fletcher has owned her house for almost twenty years. She recently found out she did not have flood insurance.

“After 17 years of paying into a mortgage I will have to redo it,” she said. “What I learned is that flood insurance for private homes didn’t come into effect until 2017, prior to that only businesses could get it. I wasn’t told I should add the flood insurance, unfortunately I didn’t think about it.”

Fletcher said she and her daughter are living at someone else’s house in Merritt so they don’t need to travel back and forth from Kamloops every day. She said some neighbourhoods are not allowed to run the water and there are portable toilets on every block. City workers are busy fixing sections of road and hauling garbage.

READ MORE: Unexpected problem: Rodents squatting in flood-evacuated Merritt home

“There are some residents allowed to return home but many are not as there are areas with no water or sewer services,” Fletcher said. “We are allowed to return home if our homes are habitable but we need permission. There is a list on the City website showing addresses that are not allowed to return. Mine is one of them.”

Endeavor to be Better program workers clean up mud in flooded Merritt home.
Endeavor to be Better program workers clean up mud in flooded Merritt home.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Lenora Fletcher

Fletcher has gone through four fire evacuations in her life but this is the first flood. She said she and many others have been in survival mode for weeks and the days are exhausting and emotional.

“I have cried about four times already, I am losing precious things from the people I love,” she said. “We have been telling stories and joking to help us get the energy to keep going. Many people are coming to together to support one another through this.”

Fletcher said people living outside of Merritt could help by dropping off work gloves, coveralls, garbage bins and face masks.

“The biggest thing we need is for others to be willing to come and get their hands dirty with us, every little bit helps,” she said. “What we don’t need are all the looky-loos who drive by and stare. Quit looking, get over here and help.”

Debris piled in a basement in Merritt during the Coldwater River flooding event.
Debris piled in a basement in Merritt during the Coldwater River flooding event.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Lenora Fletcher

The community program helping Fletcher and others like her is called Endeavour to be Better.

“The program takes people who are trying to transition themselves back into the workforce,” Fletcher said. “They have gone through life challenges. They come and help people in the community such as single mothers and elders. I am on a waitlist for Samaritans Purse.”

Trent Abraham is part of the group helping Fletcher.

“Through our program we help out homeless people, those with addictions and others in need,” he said. “We also do community clean-up as well. This is a massive clean-up, I have never seen anything like it.”

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said floodwaters are receding and repair work is starting in the province with contractors, non-governmental organizations and specialized B.C. Wildfire Service teams.

Farnworth was to visit the damaged Interior community of Merritt today but was forced to cancel due to weather.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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