‘Like a waterfall’: A first-person account of living through a flood

An exclusive look at the first Fraser Valley story to be entered into a new “memory vault” collecting the stories of the survivors of climate disasters around the world.

By Fraser Valley Current Contributor | June 17, 2022 |5:00 am

This story may be traumatic or triggering for some readers, especially if you were impacted by the November flooding. The Fraser Health crisis line is available 24/7 for anyone with mental health concerns (604-951-8855 or toll-free at 1-877-820-7444). AgSafe BC has a number of counsellors who are available free of charge for BC Agriculture members. The Yarrow Food Hub (41620 No 3 Rd.) has free in-person counselling sessions each Thursday for people affected by flooding. (For more details, contact yarrowfoodhub@hotmail.com.)


By Shoshauna Routley as told to Sandy Ibrahim

Shoshauna Routley is an athlete, farmer, and co-owner at The Functional Beverage Group Inc., where she and her partner manufacture Healthy Hooch Kombucha & Thrive Remedies. They live and work on a ten-acre farm in Abbotsford. Shoshauna grew up in Texas and immigrated to Canada with her mother and step-father when she was eight.

A self-proclaimed shy kid with not much confidence, Shoshauna’s natural athleticism and disciplined personality led to a ten-year stint as a professional cyclist, a career she also shared with husband Will, whom she’d met right after high school. When she retired from cycling five years ago, Shoshauna bought a two-acre farm with Will, and the pair embarked on a dream of growing their own food. Shortly thereafter, they expanded their vision and started a small-batch Kombucha company.

In November 2020, they took a great risk and bought a ten-acre farm to scale up their business. The couple spent nearly a year upgrading their new facility to meet the stringent food safe requirements of GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) so they could sell their products to the US and big box stores like Costco. In early November of 2021, they passed their food safe audit with flying colours. They were about to celebrate when a series of atmospheric rivers caused unprecedented flooding in Abbotsford and surrounding areas.

Shoshauna’s story was recorded with the Climate Disaster Project, a network based at the University of Victoria that includes partners at 12 other post-secondary institutions. Co-ordinated by journalism professor Sean Holman, members of the project will work with people affected by last year’s flooding and landslides in the Fraser Valley to share their stories. The stories will be stored in an online and publicly accessible “memory vault,” and published in partnership with The Current this fall. If you would like to share your story, email coordinator@climatedisaster.uvic.ca.

What is the climate disaster project? Click here to find out.


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Shoshauna’s story

It was a really big challenge for us to even get this place. We sacrificed so much. It’s quite the feat to build a manufacturing facility. Normally, that’s a business that’s passed down from generation to generation. It’s not something that you just start, you know, just a young couple that’s like, “I want to get into manufacturing.” You just don’t get into a business like that. The last five years have been really, really trying. We would have been celebrating our eight-year anniversary and seventeen years together that weekend. We were in celebratory mode because we just got this big certification. And then it flooded.

Monday morning, we woke up and it was raining a lot. That’s normal in this area. We’re like, “How high is that water going to come?” I wasn’t thinking anything unusual, other than, “Wow, it’s flooding a lot. I hope the rain stops. I don’t want it to come up one inch or two inches into the facility”. You’re not thinking six feet. We didn’t know it was going to be catastrophic.

We were trying to use pumps to pump the water out, but the water was rising way too fast. We basically worked until the water got too high inside the facility. As soon as I saw that the electrical hub was compromised, that’s when I was like, “We need to make the call. I don’t want my partner getting electrocuted.” We just had to say, “We have to shut the power off and wait till morning.”

So, we’re exhausted from the day, just in shock. All the roads are flooded around us, so our house and our yard was like this little island. Before we went to bed that night, it wasn’t in the yard yet. We’d seen at like 8:00 pm, they had issued an evacuation notice and at that point, there was no way we could drive out.

We thought this was all from [rain] water and the water appeared to be going down. My partner put a ruler in the ground so that he could watch the water levels. So, you’re just like, “Well, hopefully we wake up in the morning, and it starts to drain.”

I woke up at 3:00 [am] to the sound of a waterfall gushing in the crawlspace. I woke up in a panic. You just jolt out of bed. I could see water pouring in over the concrete, like a waterfall. We planted this cherry orchard this past year and I can see it from our bedroom window. It was pitch black, but I could see that the entire cherry orchard was fully submerged. It was like you were looking out at a lake. Everything was a lake. Everything was flooded. My dog wouldn’t go pee in the front yard because there was mice and rabbits and tons of wildlife on our little patch of grass at the front of our house. She’s in a frenzy. She’s like, “Well, there’s animals everywhere.” She didn’t want to go pee. We’re just like, “Holy, this is insane.” You just see all these little rodents and rabbits, because they’re all trying to survive.

We didn’t understand it. You know, it wasn’t raining. I think it was a freaking beautiful day. I kept going over the same question in my head. “Like, where did this water come from? Where did the water come from?” You know, I just couldn’t understand it. We knew it wasn’t coming from the Fraser. So like, “Where is the water coming from?”

Eventually we did find out the Nooksack River in the United States breached by like three feet. We didn’t know that information. I’d called search and rescue and they said they were triaging. But there was no timeline. Are we going to be those people who have to climb onto the roof with their cats and dog and wait on the roof for a helicopter ride? Because at that point, we’re like, “Well, if it’s this high, why not twenty feet?” You just have no comprehension. And our neighbors were saying, “Okay, we think we’re going to have a canoe.” So, they picked us up in their canoe. At this point, I went to the worst place, “We’re done. Like, our business is done.”

So we went and stayed with Will’s parents, came back and the water had recessed. We assessed the damage, and it was horrific. We had to speak with insurers, and that’s a hell unto itself, to be honest. There’s so much cleanup to do. All our records that we’ve made are gone. You’re reordering inventory. Like there’s just so much to do. And insurance was basically a part time job for my partner. It was insane. Just inventory alone was like a couple hundred thousand dollars. All told, probably close to half a million dollars.

I think we’re all afraid that it will happen again. And in my mind, it will happen again. It’s just, will we still be here? And can we escape another catastrophic flood over the next couple of years? How long will it take for it to happen again? It’s constantly weighing on my mind. We need rating systems on these storms, especially as they get worse and worse, so that we can prepare.

If we didn’t have the business here, I probably would move. I don’t know where. I don’t know where you’re safe. I personally don’t think there’s anywhere safe. It’s just where has damage not affected an area? You know, because forest fires are everywhere. So you’re never safe. I thought we were lucky in BC for the most part. You know, that’s just how I thought, “Oh, we’re very lucky to be here. Not a lot happens.” I don’t know why we think that way.

Want to tell and preserve your own story and memory? Email coordinator@climatedisaster.uvic.ca. Find out more about the Climate Disaster Project here

 


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Transcript

Storyteller name: Shoshauna Routley (she/her)
Location: Abbotsford, BC
Interviewer name: Sandy Ibrahim (she/her)
Date: March 17, 2022

IBRAHIM 0:05
My name is Sandy Ibrahim, and I’m an interviewer with the Climate Disaster Project. Today’s date is March 17, 2022. Shoshuana Routley, am I pronouncing that right? She is speaking with me today from Abbotsford BC. I’d like to begin our talk today by letting you know how much we appreciate you sharing your time and your story with us. And I’d like you to know that you can share as much of it or as little of it as you want. Besides the questions that we agreed on, I might ask you some follow up questions today. And you don’t have to answer any of them. You can also stop and pause the interview at any time. And you can leave the project as well if you’d like. So, just a reminder that you’re in control of this. And then at the end of the interview, I’d like to ask what you’re going to do today to take care of yourself. And we won’t be recording that answer. Sound good?

ROUTLEY 1:14
Yep.

IBRAHIM 1:16
Okay, so we did go over a bunch of questions. And I’m going to begin with the first one, which is a fairly general question. Just tell me a little bit about yourself.

ROUTLEY 1:29
Yeah, I’m thirty-five years old. I live on a ten acre farm in Abbotsford. I was a former professional road cyclist, and retired five years ago and decided to start a business on our farm. We started a beverage production facility.

IBRAHIM 1:49
Okay. There’s a lot of bridges there. How did you come to have this farm?

ROUTLEY 1:59
We actually started about eight years ago now. We bought a two acre farm in Abbotsford, not very far from where we are now, about three kilometers away. Then last year, we bought a ten acre farm to expand our business. So that’s kind of how we did it. We started on our two acre farm. We dabbled in growing vegetables, and then decided that we wanted to brew kombucha and grow some of the ingredients on our farm. So that’s where we started two years ago and now we’ve expanded and moved to a larger space. And now we do a number of different beverages and are planting the farm and growing different things.

IBRAHIM 2:37
That’s amazing. Can you tell me more about who you were growing up?

ROUTLEY 2:48
It’s not that complicated. I guess a lot of people have different upbringings. But I grew up in Texas, and moved to the Fraser Valley when I was seven. My mom is an immigrant. My stepdad is from Canada. And my biological dad is of Jewish descent. He’s Greek and Dutch and Irish, actually a bit of a hodgepodge mix. But personally, as a kid, I was probably super shy. Not very confident. Even as a teenager, I don’t think I could envision doing what I’m doing now. But I’ve grown a lot. And here I am. Yeah.

IBRAHIM 3:42
How did you get into cycling?

ROUTLEY 3:45
You know, I’ve always been very athletic in school. I love sports. I always had that mentality to push myself and to see how good I could get. I would practice if I wasn’t good at something until I was good at it. I was very determined. But I got into cycling, actually, through one of my friends in high school. He gave me a bike when I was in grade twelve. So I was like sixteen. And I just started riding this old eighties bike. Then he introduced me to my husband once I graduated. I was eighteen when I met my husband, and he was a professional cyclist, and we started riding. We did our first trip to Australia, and did a road tour there. And then after that road trip, which was like four months, I decided, “Oh, why don’t I try racing?” I started racing in my early twenties and did it for another ten years, until basically I became a pro and raced as a pro for a few years. Then retired at about twenty-seven.

IBRAHIM 4:46
Wow. What is the life of a pro cyclist?

ROUTLEY 4:50
You know, a lot of people don’t know, but you can be quite a bit older. It’s not like a youth sport. There are definitely people who start when they’re young, but it’s a time thing. The more time you put in, the better you get. It’s the building of those muscles and those blood vessels. But it’s also just the skill of technically riding. I mean, you’re in a pack of anywhere from fifty to 150 people and you’re really, really tight. You’re on very small tires. And you’re going, I mean, we could be going 100k an hour down a hill. And that’s, you know, in a bunch. So you’re going really, really fast, you have to have a lot of control. It would basically be like, for the average person to just jump on a motorbike and know how to corner on a motorbike. It takes years to do that. So it’s the same on a bike. It’s a very skill based sport. So it takes a long time to get good at it.

IBRAHIM 5:48
Wow, that’s amazing. I’ve never met a pro cyclist before.

ROUTLEY 5:52
Okay, there’s actually a lot of cyclists in Victoria.

IBRAHIM 5:55
I see them. I just don’t know any. I mean, my husband commutes by bike but that’s a very different thing.

ROUTLEY 6:01
Interesting. The connection, our connection? My friend Annika knows your husband. She was a pro cyclist.

IBRAHIM 6:11
Oh! That’s cool.

ROUTLEY 6:14
So, you know, not directly, but you do know a pro cyclist. [Laughs]

IBRAHIM 6:19
[Laughs] I guess I do. But what makes you a pro versus an amateur?

ROUTLEY 6:24
So that’s just getting on a pro team. So a pro team is like any professional team. They have a combination of sponsors. And then they got those sponsors, they have a budget, and then they budget contracts for the riders, and for the managers and for the events and for the fees for the events and all your equipment and your clothing and your travel and that sort of thing. So that’s what makes you a pro.

IBRAHIM 6:46
Amazing. So do any of the skills that you have as a pro cyclist transfer to your business?

ROUTLEY 6:58
Oh, I think so for sure. We push ourselves every day. And, as a cyclist, it is a team sport when you’re in the race, because you’re racing together and to get one person on the podium, there are a lot of team tactics involved. But when you’re training, when you are training for these races, you’re training individually. We all have our own individual coaches. When you have to get out every single day to ride anywhere from two to six hours, it’s you pushing yourself to get out the door. To be pro, it’s not like you just go out and ride your bike, like you have a power meter and you’re holding the power that your coach suggests, and you’re going hard. So there’s always pressure on the pedals. Your legs are always hurting. It’s kind of difficult to explain, but you’re always in, you know, like a steady amount of pain if, if not a lot of pain.

IBRAHIM 7:50
I was an athlete growing up as well. And then I was a boxer for a few years and ran my own club here and coached youth boxers. So I know the discipline of sport, and the mindset that you have to be in to be able to be successful, and the amount of pain that you just have to endure on basically a day to day basis.

ROUTLEY 8:10
And it’s interesting cycling, because you’re doing that on your own. Like I don’t go to the gym and have someone egging me on to dig deeper, push harder. You know, you’re doing that all on your own. So it’s very unique that way. The personalities that end up going into this, they’re very driven.

IBRAHIM 8:37
Yeah, well, I can see that that would transfer to being an entrepreneur.

ROUTLEY 8:40
Yeah, it definitely does. Because it’s constantly up and down. You’re facing hurdles on a daily basis. And you have to just keep making decisions even when you’re stressed. And you’re fighting an uphill battle.

IBRAHIM 8:55
Yeah. So speaking of, what kind of work were you doing just before the flood happened?

ROUTLEY 9:03
Oh, we were actually, we just got our facility certified with this top level safety food certification. And it’s so extensive. It took us months to prepare for it. We had to have an auditor come in and it took two days. It was a two day audit. And we have to go over certain things like: “Do you have a camera setup in your facility?” So that if someone comes in and tampers with the ingredients, you’ve caught it on camera? “Do you have locks on your door that self lock that nobody can come in and come out? Like, it’s only authorized individuals that can come into your facility?” So that’s the level of food safety and security that you have to have to get this certification. So the documentation and the record keeping that you need is so extensive and we had just spent like six months building into this and we just got certified. We passed with ninety-eight percent, which is like, it is very, very good. And then two weeks later, it flooded. Ah, yeah.

IBRAHIM 10:13
So what was this certification called?

ROUTLEY 10:16
It’s called GFSI. Like a food international food safety initiative. It’s what you would need if you want to sell to the States. Or to Costco. So when you see products in places like these big retailers, this is the level that’s required. So you really can’t be a very, very small company and be able to serve retailers like Costco. It’s also for consumers to know that your food is safe. They work on really high quality products, because the auditing process is so intense.

IBRAHIM 10:51
So am I correct to assume that you were wanting to level up then and start selling your products to bigger players?

ROUTLEY 10:59
Oh, yeah. That was, that is still the goal.

IBRAHIM 11:04
Okay, good. Well, I’m glad to hear that that “still” is there. And what were you doing other than work?

ROUTLEY 11:13
So that would have been mid-November when the floods happened. The weekend after we had to evacuate, it was my husband and my, our anniversary. So it would have been- oh, my God- it would have been our seventeenth anniversary being together and committed. But it would have been our, oh man– So we got married in 2013. And 2021. So, our eight year anniversary. Yeah, we would have been celebrating our eight year anniversary and seventeen years together that weekend. We had planned to rent a mobile sauna to come out and we were gonna hike all day. And then sauna for the whole weekend. Like hike and sauna and just do that sort of thing. And then it flooded. So that’s what we had planned to do. We were in celebratory mode, because we just got this big certification. And so our anniversary was kind of going to be that time that we like, relax a bit .

IBRAHIM 12:29
Right. Surprise! Who were you living with at the time that the flood happened; there’s you and your husband, are there any other people?

ROUTLEY 12:41
No, no, no. So it was just my husband and I. However, we had a staff member/friend. She went to go visit her parents in Quebec, and she left her, basically her mobile home, she had a renovated bus that she made into her house, and she put so much effort into it. She had solar panels on the roof, she had a shower toilet, you know, and in this sort of, like, short bus. She put a lot of investment into this sort of travel bus. And then on the property when it flooded. So she was impacted, and we were impacted. And yeah, but really, it was just my husband and I here and our dog and our two cats.

IBRAHIM 13:29
And were you taking care of anybody before the flood happened? Are you a caregiver to anyone?

ROUTLEY 13:39
No, not yet. Yeah, not for a while. Hopefully we’ll stay young and healthy for a while.

IBRAHIM 13:46
Yeah, yeah. Are your parents or your mom and your stepdad close?

ROUTLEY 13:52
They’re in Langley. Yeah. So not too far away.

IBRAHIM 13:56
Yeah. And, and your bio father is still in the States?

ROUTLEY 14:00
He is, but I don’t have contact with him.

IBRAHIM 14:07
You were thirty-four at the time of the flood. Did I get that right? You’re thirty-five. Now,

ROUTLEY 14:12
I turned thirty-five in October at the end of October.

IBRAHIM 14:15
Okay, so you were thirty-five? Right. Yeah. Okay how did you come to be in Abbotsford during the flood? [laughs] You live there.

ROUTLEY 14:34
Yeah, we’ve actually been in Abbotsford for, you know, probably twelve to thirteen years on and off. I went to school at the University of the Fraser Valley. So I was taking courses there, part time over the last, well thirteen years ago. For like six years after that.

IBRAHIM 15:03
What were you studying?

ROUTLEY 15:05
Um, at the time I was studying kinesiology and French. Yeah, this is before we started the business, just picking away at different classes to potentially be a teacher in the future to do that.

IBRAHIM 15:21
So Abbotsford was an easy choice for you or an obvious choice?

ROUTLEY 15:27
It was just a good location. It was a good location for training because there’s lots of farm roads and it’s really open. You know, we know the area. And then the school was here, and we had a friend that we’ve lived with earlier. So I rented a room off him and I went to school, and it was just a good place to train. So it made sense.

IBRAHIM 15:47
And when you initially bought the farm, what were you thinking that you were going to do?

ROUTLEY 15:53
Like this current farm?

IBRAHIM 15:55
The two acre farm?

ROUTLEY 15:56
The two acre farm. Yeah, well, we hadn’t started the business when we bought the farm. But we kind of wanted to have our own space and plant our own food. We’ve always been super health focused. And, you know, I actually initially went to school for horticulture. So when I graduated from high school, I took a two year diploma in horticulture. So that was like, yeah, eighteen to twenty. And basically met my partner, and we both had a love for gardening. So we started our first garden at a basement suite that we rented and sort of had this idea that we wanted to grow our own food and have a little space. We idealized the idea of farm life.

IBRAHIM 16:34
Yeah, as one does-

ROUTLEY 16:36
As one does. And then we found this spot two kilometers away from here, which actually flooded even worse. Even worse than it did here. Well, not worse, but the house was much lower and a much older house. It was like one of the original farm houses that were there. So it fully flooded, and it was already very damaged to begin with so I can only imagine the state that it’s in now.

IBRAHIM 17:01
Do you know what kind of state it’s in?

ROUTLEY 17:04
You know, we’ve just run by it. And we know that the main floor flooded, and there was already mold issues with that house. So I imagine it’s not any better. You know, we kind of renovated the house when we moved in, so that it was livable. But there were just some serious issues with the crawl space. So I’m sure that hasn’t gone anywhere. I think over the years, the foundation shifted as well and probably sunk a bit. So it’s worse than it was when it was initially built in the early 50s.

IBRAHIM 17:46
What was Abbotsford like as a community before the flood?

ROUTLEY 17:52
Just a normal farming community. Abbotsford is way bigger than people think. There’s a big town centre, and it’s sort of sprawls. And it’s a big city in size because of all the landmass, so that sort of stretches a bit. Just a smaller farming town. Not too loud, just kind of quiet. But still, there’s a lot of people here. I think there’s over a hundred thousand people in Abbotsford.

IBRAHIM 18:24
What is the community like?

ROUTLEY 18:30
Like I said, there’s a lot of farming families, you know, whether they’re like Indian families or Dutch families, a lot of dairy farms, a lot of chicken farms. There’s a bit of agricultural farming as well, like, that’s kind of what we do is just agricultural farming.

IBRAHIM 18:46
Is it a close knit community?

ROUTLEY 18:49
I think that it is, but when you live on a farm, it’s a little less like that, because you’re not close to the city center. So my partner and I are quite isolated here. However, the community that we moved from Arnold, we’re still very close to that community. And it really is like this tight little community. There’s a church where we were. We’re 3k away, and still run by our old place all the time. And it’s interesting is this really small community amongst all the farms. Positioning is actually very interesting. It was like one of the first communities in Abbotsford I think, or definitely one of the farming communities.

IBRAHIM 19:26
So I’m not really familiar with Abbotsford. Is Arnold a community inside of Abbotsford or is it another town or municipality?

ROUTLEY 19:37
It’s not, it’s a community inside. I don’t know how many families there are. But I’d say there’s probably like maybe thirty homes, maybe more. But it’s tight and then everywhere else around them is bigger farms right. It’s unique that way. Normally, if you have a community like that it’s not surrounded by farms.

IBRAHIM 20:08
I grew up in a rural area. And that, so I’m trying to picture what it might be like. And I feel like that place that I grew up in is a little bit like that. There was farmland all around me. And then pockets of houses that were a little closer together, like we lived on three acres. But other people lived on fifty acres-

ROUTLEY 20:33
Exactly, yes, there’s in this community, there’s probably, you know, fifteen homes that have less than an acre. And there are homes that have two, five, three. But they’re all kind of close together. And then outside of that you have the much larger farms, you know, fifty, one hundred, two hundred acres, that sort of thing.

IBRAHIM 20:57
Why did you choose the property that you’re living on now?

ROUTLEY 21:02
You know, it was just sort of happenstance. We were running by and we saw that it already had a massive facility on it. So we thought, “Well, maybe we can store some of our product there”. So we ended up knocking on the door of the previous owner, and asked, “What are you doing with that space? we see that it’s up for rent.” Or we saw that it was up for rent and then they took it down. And turns out they were selling so we were like, “Oh, maybe this is like a good opportunity to see what we can do and see what kind of funding we can round up to move and expand?”

IBRAHIM 21:32
Had you already been making kombucha before that?

ROUTLEY 21:36
Yeah, we had. Yeah. And we moved here a year ago. And we’ve been running the company for five years now.

IBRAHIM 21:43
Okay, in a very small space.

ROUTLEY 21:46
It was really really cramped. It was very tight. Yeah.

IBRAHIM 21:53
You must have been excited to move in. [cross-talk]

ROUTLEY 21:56
[Sighs] Yes. It was like a really big challenge for us to even get this place. Yeah, I’ll put it that way. It was very challenging to obtain this property. It was a big hurdle for us. And it was super stressful. That would have been, not this this fall, but the last fall, because we just-[cross talk]

IBRAHIM 22:17
[cross-talk] -I think to give context, would it have been November or the fall of 2020, when you moved there?

ROUTLEY 22:28
Yes, yes.

IBRAHIM 22:30
So we were already into the pandemic. Okay. So in the fall of 2020, you move there. Did you have to do anything to the house or to the-

ROUTLEY 22:43
The facility had some food safe stuff that we had to do. So it wasn’t like an easy transition to move. Definitely, yeah. Yeah.

IBRAHIM 22:54
How long was the preparation to get yourself ready to be certified for this higher level?

ROUTLEY 23:01
So it would have taken so basically from like- since we moved in? Basically January to October.

IBRAHIM 23:11
Okay, so you got the certification in October,

ROUTLEY 23:14
or November, January to November.

IBRAHIM 23:17
Okay, so the certification came in. You passed with ninety-eight percent? What day was that? Do you remember?

ROUTLEY 23:27
You know, I know it was in November. And I think it was like two weeks before the flood. So it would have been? Yeah, I’d have yeah,

IBRAHIM 23:34
That’s fine. I can do the math, but early November. So the flood happened- what was the date? Do you remember?

ROUTLEY 23:44
November 14th.

IBRAHIM 23:45
Okay and how did you become aware that there was a flood?

ROUTLEY 23:49
Well, you know, what, we didn’t know there was a flood until we had to get out the next morning. To be honest, we just thought that there was a lot of rain and that it was water accumulation. So, water accumulation is different than a flood because it’s from rain, so you don’t- We weren’t given any notice that there was going to be a flood. Or that this area could even flood the way it did. We had no idea. And maybe that was our naivety, but no one had talked about it. It has never flooded in this area. It has flooded near the lake. We’re not actually in the lake. So everybody’s like, “Oh, well, it’s a lake. Let it flood.” Like it’s supposed to be a lake. It’s like we’re technically not in the lake.

We flooded because the Nooksack River in the States breached. So, apparently no one knew that that river had breached. So you just think that it’s water accumulation. So on Monday morning, we woke up and it was raining a lot and you think, “Okay, it’s starting to– We’re starting to see a lot of big puddles everywhere.” That’s normal in this area. Fields flood a little bit every year. A lot of water, and then there’s bird life. And that’s just normal, but it drains. So we kind of thought, “Okay, it’s raining a lot,” and we’re starting to see it come up the driveway more than it ever has. And this was, you know, 11:00 am? We’re like, “How high is that water going to come?” And as soon as it started to get closer to the facility in the back at the facility– It’s quite a bit lower than the house– The house was built up. So at the back where the facility was, you could see it approaching the facility concrete. You know, we thought, “Okay, we should probably just start filling garbage bags with sand or gravel, like our gravel driveway and try and block the man doors and the bay doors.”

IBRAHIM 25:46
And what was your state of mind at the time?

ROUTLEY 25:49
Just work. There’s only two of us. Our production manager couldn’t get out. He was in Mission. The roads are too hectic and like there was flooding everywhere. So we’re like, “Okay, he’s not coming out.” Our admin had just gone home. She came in the morning and then just left because the roads, she had heard the roads were getting bad. So she left that morning, probably around eleven or so. So really, we just were on this mentality that we needed to block the doors. “How high can the rain come up? How much can it rain?” Like it can’t, you know, you’re not thinking like a flood. You’re thinking, “It’s raining. A lot.”

IBRAHIM 26:30
So, what did it sound like? I mean, I know what rain sounds like. But was it just typical rain?

ROUTLEY 26:39
It was raining hard. But it’s funny. Like my husband has a bit of a different perspective. He’s like, “No, it was bucketing down, like it was pouring.” And for me, because I was so fixated on filling the sandbags and blocking the doors that I didn’t really notice the heaviness of it all. And the house here is quite insulated and so I could see that it was raining a lot. But it rains a lot in BC. It rains hard in BC. So if it’s raining really hard, “Well, how long is it raining for that hard?” You know, you’re just arguing perspectives on rain. In an area where it rains a lot, all the time.

IBRAHIM 27:19
Right. So nothing unusual.

ROUTLEY 27:22
I wasn’t thinking anything unusual. Other than, “Wow, it’s flooding a lot. And it’s raining really hard. Like, I hope the rain stops. I don’t want it to come up one inch or two inches into the facility”. You’re not thinking six feet. You can’t even process where all that water comes from, even if it rained forever. Like, “How long would it take to rain six feet?”

IBRAHIM 27:50
So can you walk me through the day? Then at 11am? You it’s flooding and or [cross-talk]

ROUTLEY 27:57
[cross-talk]-It’s raining. You can see water coming up the driveway. So just like puddles and then as one o’clock, two o’clock, come around, the water is getting way higher. It’s getting a lot deeper. Those sandbags that we were putting around the doors were only just keeping the water out. So I think it was like a foot and then it’s coming up to above your knees and you’re like, “How high can the water go?”

So you’re moving everything in the facility. You’re trying to use a forklift to raise everything. You’re putting things up on double pallets because you think, “Okay, double pallets that should be good in the facility.” So you’re doing all this work, not knowing that it’s futile. We spent hours putting things up on double pallets. Hours. The entire day was spent just trying to alleviate the damage that we thought could happen.

We didn’t know it was going to be catastrophic. The thing is, apparently, we could have known we could have been told that a catastrophic flood was coming and prepare for like, four to six feet. You know?

IBRAHIM 29:07
So I’m trying to imagine what you must have been thinking at the time. You just got your certification, you’d spent six months preparing your facility to pass this. As the water is rising, what are you thinking?

ROUTLEY 29:26
You know what, you’re just in shock. How my partner and I react is just to work, to do as much as we can to try and hopefully not lose everything. And then we basically worked until the water got too high inside the facility and our electrical hub. As soon as he saw that the electrical hub was compromised, that’s when I was like, “You know what, we need to make the call. I don’t want anyone, I don’t want you getting like my partner getting electrocuted” we’re gonna hot [cross-talk]

IBRAHIM 30:02
How high was the water at this point?

ROUTLEY 30:06
Um, so it was probably inside our facility. It couldn’t get that deep because the electrical hub was on the ground. So we were trying to use pumps to pump the water out, but the water was rising way too fast. So I think it’s like four o’clock, five o’clock, maybe even. But later, we just had to say, “You know what, we have to shut the power off. And we just have to wait till morning.” And so we basically took our tractor and moved it up to the house, because it hadn’t flooded the house yet. When we left, it was probably like above the knees. So when we had to make the call to just turn off the power it was probably above my knees. And-

IBRAHIM 31:00
Had you lost anything at this point?

ROUTLEY 31:05
We pretty much knew that a lot of things would be really damaged. Like our forklift, for one. Our electric forklift was a big one because we couldn’t, you can’t drive it on gravel. We couldn’t get it out of the facility. By the time it came up, and we just tried to like, we basically just had to park it. So we knew that that big piece of equipment was just done. You didn’t really know how much damage there would be. You know, when we went inside that evening, we thought, “Okay, maybe it’ll just be four feet. You know, maybe it won’t go any higher than that. Maybe it’ll just stay.” It was even three feet inside the facility. You know, like it wasn’t it wasn’t covering any of the machinery like our actual bottling equipment. The legs, you know, the legs were kind of like, you know, submerged. Not, not reaching the like electrical panels, that sort of thing. So you just hope that, “Okay, this is as high as it’s gonna get.”

My partner was measuring how high the water was coming up at our house. He had put a ruler in the ground, like stuck it in there so that he could see it sticking out so that we could watch the water levels. Before we went to bed that night, I think we ended up going to bed around eleven, it wasn’t in the yard yet, like our yard. We’re quite a bit higher at the house. So we still had our tractor parked behind our house. The top of the house is the highest point. And then the back of the house is a bit lower. So we parked our tractor. We parked our vehicle actually right up at the front of our house at our garage. Just because our neighbors across the street, they were parking all their vehicles in our driveway as well because it’s a little bit higher. So we’re like, yeah, yeah, park your vehicles up here. They parked all of their cars, they have a much larger farm across the street. They parked all of their big equipment on the road, because the road is a little bit elevated compared to their house and their barn.

IBRAHIM 33:17
So there, so there was some community interaction that happened that day?

ROUTLEY 33:22
Oh, yeah. Yeah. I mean, we were all kind of frantic, though. We’re all working. Like nobody wasn’t working. Nobody had time to look at their phones. You know, we were just frantically trying to pick up our stuff.

IBRAHIM 33:36
Were you able to see people and what they were doing?

ROUTLEY 33:40
Not really like we were in the back of our facility, there at the back in the barn. You’re not really paying attention to what other people are doing. You’re just trying to manage stuff.

IBRAHIM 33:52
So how did the neighbor come to park in your driveway? Did they come over and ask you or?

ROUTLEY 34:00
To be honest, I don’t remember. I don’t remember. I think maybe they texted Will and Will was like, “Yeah, go for it.”

IBRAHIM 34:07
Right. Yeah. So you’re just getting it done.

ROUTLEY 34:11
Yeah. Just getting just getting it done. And it’s interesting that morning, I saw Global come out and they were filming across the street at our neighbor’s house. So interesting.

IBRAHIM 34:24
Why do you think they were there?

ROUTLEY 34:27
Just because there was so much water. They were spectating. And they were letting the whole of B.C. spectate.

IBRAHIM 34:36
Did you sleep that night?

ROUTLEY 34:38
Well, it’s interesting. So the water wasn’t at the house. So you kind of just like you and we’re exhausted from the day. You’re just in shock. You’re just like, “Wow. Like wow.” And at that point, my husband had been watching the water levels and they were going down. Apparently that can happen a little bit before the river breaches and it’s insane. So the water levels are going down. All the roads are flooded around us, so it’s like our house and our yard was like this little island. We’d seen at like eight pm, they had issued an evacuation notice and at that point, there was no way we could drive out.

IBRAHIM 35:27
So if he were to stand on the roof of your house at that point and look around you, what would you have seen at eight pm? Let’s say there was enough light?

ROUTLEY 35:36
Well, you’d see that the road was flooded, you’d see certain farms, like there was water everywhere. And there’d be houses that were built up a little bit who would have their patch of lawn, and they’d be fine. You know, or the house would be just the only thing that’s not surrounded in water if that makes sense.

IBRAHIM 35:55
So you’ve received an evacuation notice, but you can’t leave?

ROUTLEY 35:59
Yeah. Yeah.

IBRAHIM 36:04
So what do you do instead?

ROUTLEY 36:06
The thing is you don’t really know how high it can come out. Because nobody’s told you that the Nooksack River has breached by like three feet. So we didn’t know that information. So we thought this was all from water and the water appeared to be going down. So you’re just like, well, “Hopefully we wake up in the morning, and it starts to drain.”

So we go to bed. But I ended up getting woken up at like, I think my husband was up at like 2:00 am and I woke up at three. Or he was like 2:30 and I was 3:00. And I woke up because I heard, obviously, he’s a lighter sleeper than I am. So he got up and he knew that the crawlspace was flooding and he was already starting to pull stuff out of the crawlspace. And I woke up to the sound of like a waterfall gushing in the crawlspace even more. I kind of woke up in a panic. Like your heart, you just jolt out of bed. And I could see water pouring in over the concrete, like a waterfall. Like that’s what it sounded like, into the crawlspace. And then at that point, I go and I look out the window.

We planted this cherry orchard this past year. And I can see it from our bedroom window. So I was looking at this cherry orchard. I could also see our neighbor’s house. And it was pitch black. But I could see that the entire cherry orchard was fully submerged. And it was water all the way to our neighbor’s house. I could see their front door and their little three steps. And everything else was water. And it was like you were looking out at a lake, like everything was a lake. I couldn’t tell how close the water was to the house. But it was obviously coming into the house like into the crawlspace like everything, everything was flooded. And then as it started to get light, I looked out the back door and we have a big wooden fence sort of a fenced in yard. That fence is probably eight feet high, something like that. I’d like to say like five and a half feet, maybe more, was submerged. Yeah.

So it’s a lake. Then we have our porch as well. So the water, because the house is built up, the water was basically like, just below the porch. You know, you could see- Like, our dog and our cat, they were on the porch. And they were just looking out like they were in shock as well. [laughter] You could see their little faces, looking at the water not wanting to go down. And my dog wouldn’t go pee in the front yard because- That was another crazy part. When we woke up, we walked out the front door when it was just sort of like dawn, to take her out to go pee and there was mice and rabbits and tons of wildlife on our little patch of grass at the front of our house. Because they’re all trying to survive. She’s like, in a frenzy like she’s like, “well, there’s animals everywhere.” She didn’t want to go pee. But we’re just like, “Holy, this is insane.” You know, you just see all these little rodents and rabbits and-

IBRAHIM 39:43
Yeah, it sounds really surreal.

ROUTLEY 39:45
It was. It was surreal. Looking around and seeing just like this pitch black lake.

IBRAHIM 39:53
Were you able to see your facility?

ROUTLEY 39:56
No, no,

IBRAHIM 39:58
Were you thinking about it?

ROUTLEY 40:01
That day I could, we could see the facility from our house just barely, but we could see how high it was in the man door. And we knew that it was deep out there.

IBRAHIM 40:11
What sorry, what’s a man door?

ROUTLEY 40:13
They call it a man door because it’s like where a man would enter. I don’t know why they call it that.

IBRAHIM 40:21
[laughter] I’ve never heard that before.

ROUTLEY 40:24
It’s like, it’s a people’s door. Okay. Yeah, cuz there are, you know, bay doors, you know, going through and then they’re like, just called man doors. Yeah. Anyway.

IBRAHIM 40:35
So what time are you kind of seeing this? Three am, you wake up. You look in your crawl space. This is now Tuesday. Is it still raining?

ROUTLEY 40:47
You know, it wasn’t raining. I think it was a freaking beautiful day.

IBRAHIM 40:53
And so how were you making sense of the rising water if there was no rain?

ROUTLEY 40:58
That’s the thing. We didn’t understand it. I just kept, I kept going over the same question in my head. “Like, where did this water come from? Where did the water come from?” You know, like, I just couldn’t, I couldn’t understand it. Like we knew it wasn’t coming from the Fraser. So like, “Where is the water coming from?” And no one knew anything.

IBRAHIM 41:29
Where were you looking for information?

ROUTLEY 41:32
You’re just looking online all the time. You know, eventually when we did find out the Nooksack breached. To be honest, the actual time during the day, I don’t know when we found that out. I think in the morning. I was just going over, “Okay, do I call search and rescue? How do we get out of here? Are we going to be those people who have to climb onto the roof with their cat and their cats and dog and wait on the roof for a helicopter ride?” Because at that point, we’re like, “Well, if it’s this high, why not twenty feet?” Like we’re, like you, just have no comprehension.

IBRAHIM 42:02
When I’ve been in sort of bad situations, the yardstick keeps moving. It’s like, “Oh, well, this is happening.” And then you know, you kind of come to terms with that. And then you realize, “Oh, no, actually, this is happening. It’s worse than that.” And you have to constantly adjust. I would imagine you were thinking about your business at first.

ROUTLEY 42:30
Yeah, at first, it was the business. I mean, if we had known that it was going to be so catastrophic and we had lead time. Apparently, Sumas Washington, they have like, a big alarm that goes off when it floods. Big sounding alarm and the entire community can hear it.

IBRAHIM 42:49
And how far away are they from Abbotsford?

ROUTLEY 42:53
I think it’s something like as the as the crow flies, like, I want to say like twenty kilometers.

IBRAHIM 43:00
Amazing. Was this community twenty kilometers away better prepared as a result?

ROUTLEY 43:10
I don’t know. I know they experience a lot of flooding. They’re a small town. And I guess they just don’t get a ton of funding to fix the infrastructure. Because they’re just a blip, when it comes to the U.S.. They’re not even thought of. So I know that they experience flooding all the time. But apparently a few days earlier, they were told that there would be a catastrophic flood. So they were used to flooding because of the Nooksack, but they were told a few days earlier that there would be a catastrophic flood. So did they have more time to prepare? I would, I would guess, yes, they did.

IBRAHIM 43:52
So you had no indication that there was a catastrophic flood. Twenty kilometers away, they knew there was going to be a catastrophic flood. And you discovered that it was catastrophic on Tuesday?

ROUTLEY 44:08
Yeah.

IBRAHIM 44:11
After spending an entire day preparing. So how did your efforts from Monday translate to Tuesday?

ROUTLEY 44:22
Well, Tuesday was just trying to collect memorables that we wanted to take with us: our passports, things that we needed, you know, our computer’s, stuff that had all of your photos and all your information and stuff like that. So we packed a backpack each and packed up our cats and their little carrier cases and got our dog and we didn’t know how we were going to get out. So I’d called search and rescue and they said they were triaging. So people who needed more help, like say they were injured or sick that who was coming first and that they would call us and let us know. But there was no timeline and our neighbors, they were saying, “Okay, we think we’re going to have a canoe.” So probably at noon or something like that, we ended up getting a ride in their canoe. So they picked us up in their canoe.

IBRAHIM 45:18
With your dog and your cats?

ROUTLEY 45:22
Yeah, luckily, we have carrying cases for our cats, because we kind of bring them everywhere.

IBRAHIM 45:29
This is an image. And what at this point, had you imagined that you had lost?

ROUTLEY 45:39
It’s interesting, because part of you just hopes that it doesn’t flood your house, the main floor of your house and completely destroy your house.

IBRAHIM 45:50
What of the business at this point?

ROUTLEY 45:53
You know, at this point, like, I went to the worst place, and of course you wouldn’t initially you’re like, we’re done. Like, our business is done. And it’s- [Crying]. Sorry.

IBRAHIM 46:14
That must have been scary.

ROUTLEY 46:16
Yeah, we’ve put so much effort in over the last five years, we sacrificed so much. It’s like quite the feat to build a manufacturing facility. Like normally, that’s a business that’s passed down from generation to generation. It’s not something that you just start, you know, just a young couple that’s like, “I want to get into manufacturing.” You just don’t get into a business like that. So the last five years have been really, really trying. And it’s, it’s been a struggle the whole time. For a lot of different reasons. So to see that happening, and to think that it’s all just lost and gone, after so much hard work.

IBRAHIM 47:05
Yeah. You had assumed the worst on Tuesday, when you’re in the canoe, with your husband and your dog and your cats and your neighbors. Where are you going?

ROUTLEY 47:19
Yeah, so we’ve been told that the highway was closed, going west. We only know a lot of people west. Will’s parents are in Whistler. My parents are in Langley. We have friends who are just on the other side of Abbotsford, so West Abbotsford. We didn’t know a lot of people in Chilliwack, to be honest. So we had one friend in Chilliwack and they have two kids. Basically when we got off the canoe, Will phones up this friend. They both used to race together. We lived with him in Abbotsford actually. That was who we initially lived with. He was one of our roommates. Will calls him up and he’s like, “Hey, can we take you up on that offer to come stay with you.” He’s like, “We’ve got some baggage.” [laughs]

So we were really lucky. So it’s interesting, the dike that protects the lower lake, the people on the other side- [gestures location] So we were on this side of the dike. So imagine there’s the Nooksack. Here’s us, there’s a big dike, and then there’s the lower lake. So the people on the other side of that dike on the same street as us, were fine. Their houses were fine. And the road was relatively clear. So we canoed about a hundred to two hundred meters to the top of the dike, got out of the canoe, and then walked on the same street, to their house, to our neighbor’s house, and they lent the group of us one of their vehicles and we got dropped off at our friend’s house in Chilliwack. So we stayed with them for a couple days. Then we ended up going to stay with Will’s parents after that for another few days.

IBRAHIM 49:15
How long were you away from your house?

ROUTLEY 49:18
So the first flood we were gone. That happened on Tuesday? You know, I could probably probably look back but I feel like we were gone for five days.

IBRAHIM 49:39
The first flood?

ROUTLEY 49:41
The first flood, yeah.

IBRAHIM 49:42
Oh, oh.

ROUTLEY 49:43
Yeah. So this was like- From November 14 to December there were a string of atmospheric rivers. I think there were like three atmospheric rivers in two weeks. I think they’ve recorded– I think there’s five atmospheric rivers a year, something like that. Anyway, we had like this really concentrated string of atmospheric rivers within that two weeks. So we went and stayed with Will’s parents for a couple days, came back and the water had recessed.

So everything had fully drained. And we came in and assessed the damage, and it was horrific and we had to speak with insurers, and that’s a hell unto itself, to be honest. So we were dealing with insurers, and basically that week, it was dry, for the most part that week. So we were away for roughly five days, and came back for roughly five days. And during that period, we had like an outpour of people who wanted to help and help clean up and just contribute.

So we organized friends and friends of friends and people who wanted to come out and we just started cleaning. So we just started tackling it, because to have the insurer’s suggested cleaners would have eaten up our entire budget for what was insured. You have X amount of dollars. And they’re like, “Okay, well go to this cleaning company.” It’s so greasy. Because those cleaning companies that come in, they capitalize on your misfortune. So they charge an insane amount. So we were like, “Well, we can’t do it. Basically, if we have the cleaners come in and clean this place up, we’re not going to have any money for inventory, for anything.” So we’re like, “Well, let’s just do it ourselves”. So we’ve got friends and family and we just started. Will and I were working like crazy, like, all day.

IBRAHIM 51:55
About how many people were there?

ROUTLEY 51:58
Um, it would depend like, from day to day, there’d be anywhere from like five to ten people. Not like tons of people. But definitely good crews every day for at least a week. And we got the place pressure washed, power washed clean.

Then we get the notice that there’s going to be another atmospheric river. And the water still hasn’t receded fully. So it’s drained our area because that dike that I was telling you about, that dike had breached. So basically, there’s the Nooksack, there’s where we are, and then there’s that dike. The Nooksack breached and flooded our area, like it’s filling up this pool that we live in. But then that dike had breached, and let it into the lower lake. And the problem with it breaching there and letting into the lower lake is that the highway is also on that side. So that’s when the highway got compromised. So that was in the first flood. So now that lower lake is still flooded, because it can’t drain, because it is the lake. We are not the lakes, we drain into it. Everybody says like, “Oh, you’re just a lake.” No, we’re eighteen feet above the lower lake. So we only flooded because the Nooksack drained into our area, and we were trapped with that dike. If that dike wasn’t there, we wouldn’t have flooded at all.

IBRAHIM 53:23
So when that dike burst?

ROUTLEY 53:25
It went into the lower lake, and it compromised the highway. And now that lower lake because it’s lower, and it is a lake, it doesn’t drain. Another atmospheric river is coming. And they’re terrified that it’s just going to fill up with more water into the lower lake and compromise the highway even more. So that’s when they put up the tiger dam for the second string of atmospheric rivers.

IBRAHIM 53:49
I’m not familiar with the tiger dam.

ROUTLEY 53:53
It was on the news a little bit, but it’s just like this big– I don’t know why they call it a tiger dam, I think because it’s orange and white, maybe. But it’s basically like, these cylindrical tubes that blow up and they’re massive. It’s just a dam. It’s just like a plastic dam that they can blow up.

IBRAHIM 54:16
It contains the water to a certain-?

ROUTLEY 54:20
Yeah, however long it goes over long, you know? [cross-talk] And floods the highway for the second time. Okay, and it’s difficult to keep track of, to be honest.

IBRAHIM 54:38
Yeah, I mean, it just sounds unbelievable. I’m trying to imagine what it’s like. So you’ve done your cleanup. Now there’s another atmospheric river coming. And when it comes, what happens?

ROUTLEY 54:55
Well, that’s the thing we didn’t know. So we actually decided to get out and go stay with Will’s parents. They told you to evacuate sooner this time, “You need to evacuate.” So when they gave that evacuation order, I was like, “Okay, I don’t want to be here and stuck again.” So we left when they called for the evacuation order. And we were actually staying up to date with what was actually happening on the ground because our neighbor, her husband, stayed for the second round of flooding.

IBRAHIM 55:29
Do you know why he stayed?

ROUTLEY 55:34
I don’t know. Because I think he had a boat or something. Like it wasn’t a big deal. He could get out so he stayed and, you know, worst case scenario. But he’s like, “No, I’m just gonna stay. Like it didn’t reach the house last time, like the main floor and house last time, so I’ll just stay.” It was actually kind of nice, because he was able to tell us what was happening right then and there.

Yeah, so the entire facility was cleaned. So we just had to put everything inside again, we had all of our equipment on the ground, it was all being cleaned and soon to be assessed by electricians to see what they could do. We’ve put all the equipment up that we could, in case it flooded again, so that it didn’t get flooded again and just moved everything, as much as we could, and hoped that it wouldn’t flood the facility again. We sandbagged in case it just came up a little bit. We sandbagged the bay doors and the man doors again. And then we left. I think we were gone for like another week. They had the evacuation order on and our neighbor had said, “Okay, it’s come up like three inches in his barn.” But his barn is lower than ours. So we were thinking, “Okay, well, maybe it hasn’t touched the facility yet.” But we had cameras in the facility. So we’re constantly watching our phones seeing if the water had entered the facility yet. And I thought, “Well, we did sandbag. So even if it came up two inches, three inches, it wouldn’t enter the facility yet.” We were just, you know, watching the cameras and hoping that it didn’t flood again. And it didn’t.

Yeah, we were lucky. It didn’t.

IBRAHIM 57:27
That’s a sigh of relief. So when you got home, all that effort that you had done with the ten personish cleanup crew was solid?

ROUTLEY 57:38
Yeah. Yeah.

IBRAHIM 57:41
When did you feel like things were going to be okay? Or have you yet?

ROUTLEY 57:52
You know what? It took a really long time. I think I only started feeling like things are getting back on track and getting a little bit more normal probably like three weeks ago.

IBRAHIM 58:03
Okay. So what have you been doing over the last four months?

ROUTLEY 58:08
I mean, there’s- You’re just busy working so much. There’s so much cleanup to do. All of our records that we’ve made are gone. You’re reordering inventory. Like there’s just so much to do. And insurance was basically a part time job for my partner. He took care of the insurance. It was insane.

IBRAHIM 58:31
How much did you lose that you were trying to claim through insurance?

ROUTLEY 58:37
Oh, I mean, just inventory alone was like a couple $100,000. Yeah, it was a lot. And we had pallet loads of bottles that had floated into our field. They’re still there. There’s still clean up to do. We have ten pallets on our farm that we can’t get to because the ground is saturated. We need to go and bring the tractor and literally hand [unclear] bottle by bottle into the tractor bucket to throw away. So it’s hours and hours of work to do.

IBRAHIM 59:15
Are you able to run your business at the same time, or has that been put on hold?

ROUTLEY 59:21
We’re running our business because that’s our livelihood. So that’s what we have to focus on. The farm is definitely a little bit secondary at the moment. Luckily, it’s still early. But we’re hoping– Like we had a suite that was semi ready to go, and it flooded, for a farm worker. So now we have to build that suite out.

IBRAHIM 59:45
And is that covered by insurance too?

ROUTLEY 59:47
No. That’s just to try and get you know, like a seasonal farm worker, like a WWOOFer basically.

IBRAHIM 59:56
Yeah, yeah. Wow, so at this point, what kind of effect has the flood had on you?

ROUTLEY 1:00:10
I think it’s more so had an effect emotionally on everybody in the area. I think we’re all afraid that it will happen again. And in my mind, like it will happen again. It’s just, will we still be here? And can we escape another catastrophic flood over the next couple of years? Like, how long will it take for it to happen again?

But it’s constantly weighing on my mind and like, “Okay, if it happens, again, how do we prepare the facility? Maybe it won’t be as catastrophic. But what if it comes up a foot? can we protect ourselves if it’s a foot?” The facility has like a four foot concrete wall? So we’re relatively safe and we’ll have limited work and money to put into it, if it goes below four feet? If that makes sense. There’s that concrete wall, but that still leaves all of the inventory that’s on the ground. How do we get that inventory up? And like it will just come to be triaging what’s the most important inventory that we need to save, but we will lose.

So how do we reduce the damage done if it’s not catastrophic? Once they put a rating system on these atmospheric rivers? If it’s like, a five out of ten? Or if it’s a seven out of ten? What does that mean, you know, but we need, that’s something that I think really needs to happen is we need rating systems on these storms, especially as they get worse and worse. So that we can prepare.

IBRAHIM 1:01:51
Yeah. And what about the rest of the community? Do you have a sense of the effect that it’s had on the rest of the community?

ROUTLEY 1:02:00
I think everybody in this area worries that it could happen again.

IBRAHIM 1:02:07
Have people moved?

ROUTLEY 1:02:09
There have been some people. Not that many, surprisingly. But it’s hard to give up what we have here. Because land is expensive and there’s not much of it left and BC. So you’re giving up a garden, you’re giving up your farm, or you know. I mean, for us, it’s a little bit more complicated to just pick up and leave. If we didn’t have the business here, I probably would move. I don’t know where. I don’t know where you’re safe. I personally don’t think there’s anywhere safe. It’s just where has damage not affected an area? You know, because forest fires are everywhere. So you’re never safe. We live in a forest. And it’s supposed to be a rainforest, and it is for part of the year, but now it’s turning into a dry, barren desert for half of the year. So-

IBRAHIM 1:03:09
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So how did the flood make you feel about climate change?

ROUTLEY 1:03:18
I’ve always believed that we need to do more about climate change. And I think our generation has been hearing this since we were born, that climate change is an issue, and that we need to make steps towards reducing the impact of climate change and reducing the temperatures that the planet is facing, the higher temperatures. How do we level that off? More needs to be done and I’ve always known that. But actually experiencing catastrophe from climate change, it really does solidify that climate change isn’t going anywhere.

IBRAHIM 1:04:10
Do you kind of identify this event as a climate change disaster?

ROUTLEY 1:04:15
Oh, yes, I do.

IBRAHIM 1:04:18
Yeah. Yeah. Because some people will look at it as weather still.

ROUTLEY 1:04:23
It’s ridiculous. Because when you look at the atmospheric rivers that have happened, and it’s statistically how many happen per year? For two or three to happen in two weeks? That’s climate change. And like, you can’t deny that the global temperature is increasing at a rate that is not natural. So people who say that it’s not climate change, they’re just burying their head in the sand. They want to go about living their privileged lives, and they don’t want to actually take steps towards making a change. That does land on the government. You know, we can’t be expected to do something when you don’t know what to do.

IBRAHIM 1:05:14
Yeah. We were gonna talk a little bit about help, this might be a good time to ask you, what help you would have wanted to receive that you didn’t receive?

ROUTLEY 1:05:36
Well, at this particular moment, I don’t think anyone has received any funding from the government. So that says something because everyone I talk to thinks that we have received help from the government.

IBRAHIM 1:05:51
What has been the government response?

ROUTLEY 1:05:55
There’s been talk that there’s going to be funding for farmers. We’ve read through some of the requirements to get that funding. And you pretty much have to be destitute. Like you can’t receive a loan, you know? Like, they’re just a lot of limitations. But the vast majority of people won’t receive that funding. So it doesn’t make sense that it’s even available. It makes sense, I think, for people in Merritt who have lost everything. But what if you’ve put everything into it? And you’re still not coming out even close? You know, how do you justify starting a small business when there’re so many limitations to starting a small business?

IBRAHIM 1:06:44
Yeah, it’s hard at the very best of times.

ROUTLEY 1:06:47
Exactly. And now like, with climate change, inflation, all of these things land on small business. Hikes on the minimum wage. That doesn’t land on big, big corporations, that lands hard on small businesses who are struggling to hire five people. I mean, what kind of help would we have liked to receive? To be honest, the biggest help would be knowing that they’re doing something about the Nooksack River. I just read an article that the Premier is speaking with people in Washington about what’s happening, and maybe fixing the infrastructure around the Nooksack River. So I just hope that’s not just talk. You know, because when you calculate how much the government has to put into something like this, so say, they end up forking over $1 billion to help people who suffered during the flood, or say they have to fork over $10 billion to fix the infrastructure on the Nooksack River. Well, let’s just take a couple more floods. Let’s take ten more floods. Because it means that we don’t have to put out this much money to actually do something.

IBRAHIM 1:08:14
Mm hmm. But how much of B.C. relies on product that’s coming out of Abbotsford?

ROUTLEY 1:08:20
Well, that’s the thing. Right? I mean, there’s so many impacts, just the highway alone being closed. You know. And yeah, exactly. Just the farming that could be done in this area. If there is no farming?

IBRAHIM 1:08:36
Yeah, then what?

ROUTLEY 1:08:37
It’s a really complicated situation. Because we are a small percentage of people affected here. I think it’s like, I don’t know, five hundred families or something like that.

IBRAHIM 1:08:56
Are you helping each other out at this point?

ROUTLEY 1:09:00
I mean, we’re all communicating with one another. We’re all we’re all on, like group pages. Like if someone needs –I mean, there have been a lot of people who have been donating their time. And, you know [cross-talk]

IBRAHIM 1:09:11
Has the network of community communications increased since the flood?

ROUTLEY 1:09:22
Um, definitely a little bit. Um, it’s interesting, because there’s a lot of religious people in our area. They don’t really expect anything. They’re making hot lunches for everyone. And they’re having hubs for that sort of thing. So I think there is, if you’re involved, if you go to church, and you’re in that community. We don’t go to church. But if you’re in that community, I think you really do feel a sense of community because we felt it even though we don’t go to the church. When we were cleaning the facility, they had open spots that you could come and pick lunch up for all of the people who were helping. You know, so there’s stuff like that going on. And I think we’re all connected because we’ve all gone through something traumatic together. That definitely brings people together. Yeah, I’ve felt that for sure.

IBRAHIM 1:10:17
How does it bring people together? Like in a practical sense?

ROUTLEY 1:10:21
Um, well, just to communicate. You know, that sort of thing? You’re not crazy for thinking this could happen again or-

IBRAHIM 1:10:31
Yeah. What is it like running a business that you are afraid you’re going to lose?

ROUTLEY 1:10:44
It’s terrifying. It’s the worst feeling. Especially when you’ve dedicated a lot of time to it.

IBRAHIM 1:10:57
And how much do you and your partner talk about it?

ROUTLEY 1:11:02
We don’t really talk about it too much. Because you just focus on what you can control. So we focus on the growth of our business moving forward.

Today is good. I like to err on the side of caution. So I’m the one who brings up, okay, we need to get more sandbags. So that, we can at least put the sandbags up to four feet if we need to and protect our facility if it does happen to flood again, but not to the same degree. The odds of it doing something like that in the next couple of years is probably not very high. But you just never know.

So how do you protect yourself? If it doesn’t flood as much? I mean, the amount that it flooded, you cannot prepare for that. There’s nothing you can do to help save anything. It was so catastrophic. You can’t lift things up. People are gonna go, “Why don’t you lift your whole facility up?” Yes. Why don’t I lift a 20,000 square foot facility up six feet and spend like– “Do you have a million dollars to get me to do that? Do you have all the funds that will allow me to do that? Like do you know how long it would take to get the permits to do that?” Like, it’s not even- The things that people say. It’s just insane. They can’t grasp the devastation. Really, truly cannot grasp.

IBRAHIM 1:12:40
Yeah. Can we talk about the media and the way that they handled your story. I read it.

ROUTLEY 1:12:49
Oh, you read that article? [laughs]

IBRAHIM 1:12:50
I did. Yeah. [laughs] So they seem to frame it around like that the boogeyman was the thieves. Did you have any idea that that’s what they were going to be talking about?

ROUTLEY 1:13:05
No. And the worst part is, I think the photographer was in on it as well. Because when he came, he said he had no idea what the article was about. But he took this photo of us, like the sun was in my eyes. So that photo they chose, I was like looking down like this [looks down] because the sun is so in my eyes. And he’s like, “Oh Will, put your hands on Shoshauna’s shoulders”. And I was like, “The sun was in my eyes.” And he snapped the shot. And I was like, “Oh, my eyes were closed.” I had it like it was gonna be this fierce, “Look into the camera. This is what we’ve gone through, but we’re stronger than this” kind of thing. And it was like, “Oh, look at this man and his poor little wife. They’re just so worried about the thieves and all the looters.”

That being said, yes, I think one person, maybe two people’s houses, got looted when it was fully flooded and people were going around in a boat. But like, “Okay, you left your house, like it flooded. What exactly did they take? That wasn’t already–” You know what I mean? Like, I guess our house– They could have come in and taken our TV or? Like they’re in a boat, though. What can they take? “Yeah, take my TV. Take a couple of dishes!”

IBRAHIM 1:14:18
Were you thinking about looters during the flood?

ROUTLEY 1:14:22
It was the smallest thing. My mind wasn’t even going there. I didn’t even think about it until it was one of the questions that the interviewer had asked.

IBRAHIM 1:14:36
Hmm, interesting.

ROUTLEY 1:14:39
Yeah. And the whole time she was interviewing us I thought she wanted to know our story. The worst part is she said, “They had lost hundreds of bottles of kombucha.” Hundreds of bottles. People buy hundreds of bottles in a month! You know what I mean? Hundreds of bottles! If we lost hundreds of bottles, this wouldn’t have even been an issue.

IBRAHIM 1:15:00
What did you lose?

ROUTLEY 1:15:05
Ah, yeah, I mean, all told, probably close to half a million dollars.

IBRAHIM 1:15:13
Holy shit.

ROUTLEY 1:15:17
Yeah. Yeah.

IBRAHIM 1:15:25
How much of that do you think you’re gonna be able to get back?

ROUTLEY 1:15:30
You know, we do have good business insurance.

IBRAHIM 1:15:32
Good.

ROUTLEY 1:15:33
But you know we spent $25,000 on our farm. I hope that we get some of that back. We planted four hundred lavender plants last year, and I’m pretty sure more than half of them are dead. We planted I think five hundred raspberry plants. We planted five thousand strawberries. We planted how many cherry trees did we plant? Three hundred and fifty cherry trees. You know, we spent $25,000 on that stuff, and I don’t think we’re getting it back for the farm.

IBRAHIM 1:16:08
Yeah. Yeah, Things are starting to shoot out now. Are you able to kind of get any sense of how the land is doing?

ROUTLEY 1:16:17
Yeah, like I think some things are definitely gonna- Oh, yeah, we also planned to blackcurrants. We just planted those like a month before the flood. They were just little shoots. So luckily, there wasn’t a current. So it’s not like the plants, they could have very well been carried away because they were just planted. But if I’m going to guess, probably half of the half of the crops will survive. We still have to spend money on having someone go out and pick those out and replant. You know, it’s all labor, and labor, as we know, is super expensive right now.

IBRAHIM 1:16:55
And hard to find.

ROUTLEY 1:16:59
Yep. Yeah.

IBRAHIM 1:17:00
So what do you think that could be done to help you, or people like you, in case another flood happens?

ROUTLEY 1:17:10
To be honest, the best thing that the government can do is fix the infrastructure that they put in place, on state side and here, protecting all the families. Because they’re liable. They sold this land. They built the infrastructure around it to make it farmland, so they should keep it up. You know, you spend a lot of money for land in BC with some of the highest real estate prices. So people who buy land here, it’s not just their livelihood, but it’s an investment.

IBRAHIM 1:17:51
Is the community putting pressure on the government? Is there a lobby organization or any checks and balances? How empowered is the community in terms of these policies that need to be made?

ROUTLEY 1:18:06
Oh, that’s the thing. I don’t really know, like, I don’t even know who I would communicate with. We’ve heard through friends who know the mayor, that they’re in talks and that they’re gonna have a town meeting soon, which I don’t think has happened.

IBRAHIM 1:18:27
Right. And what do you [cross-talk]

ROUTLEY 1:18:29
[cross-talk] change? Unless you’re someone who is in the political world. Without having to protest. Like, I feel like that’s the only thing like the common person knows of as their way of making changes, like, oh, you join a protest, or you sign a petition.

IBRAHIM 1:18:52
Write a letter?

ROUTLEY 1:18:54
Yeah, I’d write a letter. It’s like, OK.

IBRAHIM 1:18:59
Yeah. So what do you think could be done about climate change that is increasing the frequency and intensity of atmospheric rivers?

ROUTLEY 1:19:15
I mean, really, what’s increased atmospheric rivers is just heat, the temperature coming off the ocean. So it builds bigger, more robust humidity clouds, and they travel inland and literally pour a river. So the only way to do that is to mitigate temperature increase and try and slow down the rise in temperatures. So how do to that? I mean, I guess we just have to look at what the biggest climate change polluters are. And little things that we can do as like the average person, like, we just need to know what else we can do other than, like reducing our consumption Incentives for big corporations to move to energy saving. I really don’t know. I mean, that really lands on the government creating these policies and creating incentive programs and looking at every area that they can to promote better climate action.

IBRAHIM 1:20:42
Yeah. Looking back on the flood, from today, how do you feel about it?

ROUTLEY 1:20:51
Um, I’m just trying to live my life and move forward and trying to mitigate risk if it happens again, and hopefully it doesn’t happen to the same degree.

IBRAHIM 1:21:13
And what gives you hope right now?

ROUTLEY 1:21:22
Well, what gives me hope are all the really, really intelligent scientists and engineers out there, that hopefully, we can engineer our way out of climate change. Because when it comes to reducing people’s consumption and stopping economic growth, I don’t see that happening. It just doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen.

So how do we engineer our way out of this? How do we find ways to extract CO2 out of the atmosphere? I don’t know. I’m not a scientist. This is not where I spend my time. But more funding in that area, like it has to become a priority or else the entire planet is going to burn and drown or we’ll be stuck up in a tornado. [Laughs] Like, it’s insane. That’s the crazy part. So I didn’t mention this before, but two weeks before the flood, literally two weeks before the flood, there was that massive tornado. Or what do they call it in the water? A water something? Waterspout? Anyway, there was a massive tornado that’s in the water. And that happened off of the coast of Vancouver. Like they filmed it from the airport. And if you look up videos of this tornado, it was massive.

IBRAHIM 1:22:54
I didn’t know about this.

ROUTLEY 1:22:56
Look it up. So there’s a tornado that it struck in areas around Vanc– so there were two apparently two tornadoes and one did hit in Vancouver. But I guess very lightly. But when you see the video of the tornado, from the airport, it’s very threatening. And that there was really no news around it, is scary. We’re all just very lucky it didn’t touch down in the heart of Vancouver. That happened two weeks before the string of atmospheric rivers, you’d think that would have been an indication that we should worry a bit more.

IBRAHIM 1:23:44
Mmhmm. Okay, is there anything else that you want to talk about? Any questions that you’d like to be asked? We’ve kind of reached the end of what I had planned to ask you.

ROUTLEY 1:24:01
Yeah. Yeah, not really. I do think that as much as COVID is– It’s very important that it’s in the news all the time. I think climate change should also be up there. It’s gonna cause maybe even more damage.

IBRAHIM 1:24:20
Yeah, there’s this you probably have seen the meme where there’s like the shark of COVID and then right behind it is climate change.

ROUTLEY 1:24:32
Yeah. It needs to be headlining. We need to be inundated with, you know, information on climate change and what we’re doing.

IBRAHIM 1:24:48
Yeah, well, that’s where I again want to thank you because this is going to be part of that. Because I think when people hear people’s stories as they are and they put a face to it. A face that looks like them. We are a racist, privileged nation here who thinks that nothing bad happens to us, right?

ROUTLEY 1:25:11
Oh, it’s so true. I, to be honest, I thought we were lucky in BC for the most part. You know, that’s just how I thought, “Oh, we’re very lucky to be here. Not a lot happens.” I don’t know, I don’t know why we think that way.

IBRAHIM 1:25:31
Well, I think we’re gonna probably stop thinking that way. Temperatures are rising in Canada twice as fast as the rest of the world.

ROUTLEY 1:25:42
Well, with the heat dome last year, and the amount of fires that we’ve seen, I believe it.

IBRAHIM 1:25:45
Yeah. Yeah. So um, you know, we’re in for a change, and we can learn from one another, I think. Thank you so much for doing this. I’m going to turn the recording off at this point.

ROUTLEY 1:26:04
Ok.

Fraser Valley Current Contributor

Fraser Valley Current Guest Contributor

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