Whistler homeowners deal with flooding aftermath in Tapley's neighbourhood 

Two homes on Crabapple Dr. badly affected

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - Under water The basement of John Murphy's home was completely flooded on Dec. 10.
  • Photo BY Braden Dupuis
  • Under water The basement of John Murphy's home was completely flooded on Dec. 10.

A week after record rainfall and a surging creek ruined his basement, things have gone from bad to worse for Whistler homeowner John Murphy.

The damage is estimated at about $100,000, he's been told, and his insurance company won't be covering it.

"I don't have $100,000," Murphy said on Monday, Dec. 15. "Your average guy in Whistler doesn't have 100 grand, so I don't know. We still don't have a place to live. We've got this basement to worry about. It's just a nightmare."

The nightmare began on Dec. 10, when heavy rainfall — 70.3 mm of total precipitation, according to Environment Canada, the most seen in a single day all year — caused Crabapple Creek at the Whistler Golf Club, which is owned by the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), to overflow.

The creek redirected itself straight through Murphy's backyard and into his basement, filling it to the ceiling with water.

"So now we're just demolishing the whole basement," Murphy said.

"We've actually ripped everything down to the studs and it's just a massive debris field. It's absolutely everywhere."

The Murphys are now in a fight against time, trying to restore power and heat to the home before the next bout of cold weather freezes the pipes.

With Christmas fast approaching, the family of four is taking things one day at a time and trying to look at the bright side. For now they are staying with family friends and hope to get home for the holidays if power can be restored to the property.

"These are all material possessions. There's nothing we can do about it," Murphy said.

"Everyone was safe. That was the main thing. But looking at the debris field, it's just heartbreaking."

Family friends of the Murphys have taken action to help them through the Christmas season.

"It's a good time for people to be Santa," said Jen Black, who along with Lee Schwartz has begun collecting cash donations for the Murphys.

Anyone interested in donating can email Black at jennspeer@yahoo.ca or Schwartz at mochatoes@hotmail.com.

On Dec. 15, the donation fund was already up to $800, thanks largely in part to one generous woman who gave Black $600 in cash for the Murphys.

"It just gives you shivers," Black said, of the generosity. "I love this town, it's just unbelievable."

Bridie Marshall, the Murphys next-door neighbour, was in Vancouver when she got the call from the RMOW telling her that her home was flooding.

Marshall said she had a meeting with the RMOW, who told her the creek in question was the responsibility of the province.

"The B.C. Government has a disaster fund which can be applied for but it does not cover second homes, so I will not be eligible for any financial help what so ever," Marshall said in an email.

"Obviously I am very saddened by this, as at the end of the day the house has still flooded and I will have to pick up all the cost to repair it with absolutely no guarantee that this will never happen again."

Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said that the RMOW monitors the creeks and rivers during events like the one in question.

Waterways are the responsibility of the province, according to a background briefing, but the RMOW works with it to maintain them. The site of this flood on the creek has no history of flooding going back more than 25 years.

"There are numerous creeks that run through the valley, and municipal staff simply can't be everywhere," Wilhelm-Morden said.

Some of the larger creeks and rivers have diking and flood protection, but the relative small size of Crabapple Creek meant nobody predicted it would react the way it did, Wilhelm-Morden said.

"One would have thought that if it was going to jump its banks it would have just harmlessly flooded the golf course, but it really did seem to have a mind of its own," she said. "Municipal staff is looking at this creek as well, just to see why it did what it did, and what might be done in the future."

According to the RMOW, the creek was re-diverted in the early 1980s when the golf course was built.

The original developers would have done the re-diversion with approval from the provincial government, the RMOW said.

According to a spokesperson with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, any impacts to floodplains from the re-diversion of the creek would have been part of the ministry's license application review.

But for some homeowners, the problem of flooding persists.

At the Dec. 16 meeting of Whistler council, residents of the Tapley's Farm subdivision presented their own flood concerns in the form of a letter and petition with 108 signatures.

The letter — dated Nov. 6, 2014 — says a geotechnical study needs to be done to find solutions to protect Tapley's Farm and the Whistler Cay area from flooding.

"High runoff in extreme weather conditions, particularly in the fall, has been threatening homes in Tapley's, employee housing and the church near the end of Lorimer Road," the letter said.

"The major problem seems to be the merging of Twenty-One Mile Creek, which more than triples the volume of water."

The letter and petition was received by council.

Those affected can apply for help through the provincial financial assistance program. The deadline for help is March 12, 2015 (www.embc.gov.bc.ca). This process also highlights the flooding issue to the province, which could prompt action at both the provincial and municipal level.

During the heavy rain on Dec. 10, the RMOW activated its new emergency app.

It was successful in the level one activation of the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC).

"We've been working hard on ensuring that the EOC is properly equipped... and the manuals and everything are in good working order, so it was good to have this run through," Wilhelm-Morden said.

The app was developed by local company Vectorbloom.

"The app has been a positive addition to our Emergency Management planning, providing a streamlined internal alert system for senior management to activate the EOC," said municipal communications manager Michele Comeau.

The municipality has no plans to sell the app; it was developed for internal distribution at the RMOW.

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