Merritt residents who stayed are collecting rain water, helping neighbours get by | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Merritt residents who stayed are collecting rain water, helping neighbours get by

A rising Coldwater River overtook parts of Merritt on Nov. 16 and the city was evacuated, but not all residents fled.
Image Credit: YOUTUBE/Greg InBC

Merritt residents who stayed behind during evacuation orders have been collecting rain water and relying on help from their neighbours while services were halted.

Concerned about property damage or thefts while evacuated, Colleen Hentze and her husband decided to remain in their home, which was spared from direct flood damage on Nov. 15.

"A lot of us stayed knowing we'd be on our own with no supports," Hentze said, adding that with the opening of the water treatment facility, there's "light at the end of the tunnel."

They were two of about 500 people, she estimated, who stayed and shared resources in order to live comfortably for over a week without basic services. For she and her husband, Hentze said they stayed because they were concerned about looters in the area and intended to report suspicious activity to RCMP while the city is evacuated.

"The big lesson that everyone's learned here is to just ask. Someone will help," Hentze said. "People are generally, at the core, good."

Flood waters came within two blocks of Hentze's home when the Coldwater River rose rapidly Nov. 15.

READ MORE: New B.C. law makes it harder to defend your property rights

Rains in the Coquihalla corridor ran down the mountains and quickly filled the Coldwater River beyond its banks, and even rerouted over a city street, before joining the Nicola River.

The entire city was evacuated because sewage and drinking water was compromised, along with damage to electrical and natural gas systems affecting multiple homes.

At their home in the phase three evacuation zone, Hentze said they have kept themselves supported by heating the home with a pellet stove and 2.5 tonnes of pellets stored outside the house.

They have also kept themselves stocked with food they needed and drinking water.

The only thing they needed was coffee grounds, and a neighbour shared a tin with them.

Any drinking water they needed was provided by a friend nearby who has their own private well.

READ MORE: Line of storms approaches as B.C. works to recover from recent floods

While they have been able to support themselves, others left because they couldn't live without basic services, like healthcare or a constant supply of clean water.

Hentze understands and says those people shouldn't feel the need to stay, adding that she and her husband are "old-fashioned."

"I washed my hair this morning in rain water," she said. "Climate change is onerous and people are going to have to be independent."

While they have been resourceful with what they have available to them, like making a toilet with a pail and a pool noodle on the edges, she's frustrated with the City of Merritt and would like to see more communication from the mayor.

Hentze was relieved to see a press conference on Nov. 24, when City officials discussed the setbacks and current efforts to restore basic services to the residents.

READ MORE: Kelowna was ready for 2,000 flood evacuees who arrived in city

Hearing updates from city officials, watching contractors and city workers repair infrastructure and knowing that residents are returning to their homes have her looking forward to a rebuilding in Merritt and return to normal.

Hentze owns a beading and crafting store in Merritt, and while she's been too busy to make time for her work since the flooding, she's returning to her work now.

I'm picking out beads that I'm going to make Christmas ornaments for, because I have a lot of thanks yous to give," she said.

Since Hentze's home is near the flood zone and in the city's designated phase three area, it remains under evacuation order, with no scheduled date for when would be allowed to return if they had left on Nov. 15.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 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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