Roger Soviskov, who owns Jogas Espresso Cafe in Grand Forks, is looking at more than $200,000 of damage following the floods. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)

VIDEO: After the floods, comes the cleanup as Grand Forks rebuilds

Business owners in downtown wonder how long it will take for things to go back to normal

As the floodwaters began to recede in Grand Forks over the weekend, so too did water-logged homes and businesses, as well as thoughts of the grim recovery ahead.

By midday on Monday, more than 2,000 people in the Kootenay-Boundary region were allowed to return to their homes. About 1,000 remain forced out by evacuation order and authorities promised that most of those would be home by the end of the day.

PHOTOS: Floodwaters rise and fall in Grand Forks

But even for those who can return, it won’t be back to normal just yet.

Some neighbourhoods, like Ruckle, were flooded by midweek, with floodwaters rising as high as windows.

Emergency operations centre head, and fire chief in dryer times, Dan Derby admitted that the damage to those homes could be extensive.

“It’s really an issue that they’ve been in standing water for an extended period, and then the sewerage concerns,” said Derby Sunday.

Parts of the city sit on a combined storm and sewer system, which raises concerns for sewage flooding out onto the roads.

Ruckle first flooded after a dike breached Thursday.

Assistant fire chief Kevin McKinnon, who was driving around the neighbourhood as the floods were peaking Thursday, said that the waters rose unbelievably fast.

“It had come up probably between 45-60 centimetres in half and hour,” said McKinnon.

Although officials will wait for the water to go down as much as it can, a “significant amount” will have to be pumped out once the water-saturated ground can’t absorb anymore.

“It’s hard to say what might happen to the roads and the underlying infrastructure, that’ll have to be assessed once the water is down,” said McKinnon.

But the damage could be worse, Derby noted.

“There wasn’t moving water in that area, which is a good thing. It was standing water… not like other areas where it literally dislodged from foundations.”

Over in downtown, Sunday morning saw the evacuation order lifted for 175 properties.

VIDEO: As floodwaters recede, crews assess the damage to Grand Forks’ downtown

As the hundred or so Canadian Armed Forces personnel pulled out, BC Wildfire crews, contractors and volunteers stepped up to help empty sandbags and clear away debris.

The Valhalla unit crew, based in the Kootenays, initially came midweek to help with flood preparations. The firefighters set up the tiger dams – big, orange tubes both quicker to set up and harder to dislodge – around town.

Unit leader Daniel Klein said that although the flood response differed from the firefighting work that his crew would soon be doing, it helped built unity and coordination before their season kicked into full swing.

“The deployment like this really helps build that work ethic, cooperation,” said Klein.

“Doing this interagency work with public works, local fire departments, contract crews really just builds a nice network of interagency support and moving into fire season it becomes more efficient.

On Sunday morning, 40 BC Wildfire and contract firefighters began to separate out sand and bags before Grand Forks’ public works crews loaded it into truck to cart away.

Derby told reporters Sunday that he was expecting downtown to be “open for business” by Tuesday morning, although he admitted that heavily damaged buildings could stay shuttered for months.

Further along Market Street, the city’s main commercial strip, Jogas Espresso Cafe owner Roger Soviskov took stock of the damage.

“They told me I was $200,000-250,000 deep. It could be more when they start opening up the floor,” said Soviskov.

“It’s a 1920s building so it could be compromised.”

Although sandbags helped protect the front, water flooded into Jogas from the back, which faces the river.

“It came up in the back – the toilet and drains and shower,” said Soviskov.

Soviskov is luckier than some – he has insurance, both for the damage caused by the flood and what’s called business interruption insurance, to cover the revenue he lost while shut down.

“I’ve got power and water and all that, I just don’t have a sanitary building to operate,” said Soviskov ruefully.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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