Bear researcher saved life’s work from flood 

Michael Allen rescued computer hard drive from Cheakamus waters

For more than three long hours in the gathering dusk Michael Allen waded back and forth through the frigid Cheakamus River on Sunday trying to salvage the things of his life.

He had been evacuated from the Paradise Valley area the day before but he knew there was a sturdy log 200 metres from his home that almost straddled the width of the river. And he knew he had to give it a shot.

His life’s work, a complex catalogue of Whistler’s black bear population, was stored in a computer on the other side of that log. But rising water levels were threatening to destroy all trace of that work.

Negotiating the log with the mad river waters rushing underneath, Allen reached the end and plunged in with a rope tied around his waist.

He was wearing nothing more than his sneakers, a sopping wet T-shirt, and a pair of shorts. But the chill was the furthest thing from his mind. He made is to the banks and scrambled up to his home.

"I couldn’t believe it when I first saw the front of the house," he recalled days later.

There was about two feet of water running into his front door and murky silt from the river bottom coated the floors and walls.

"The fridge was right across the kitchen and face down and there was just food everywhere."

Taking stock of the situation, Allen began to pick and choose what he would carry out with him and what he would leave behind. First he pulled his crying cat out from under a bed and took it to safety.

Next he wrapped his hard drive in plastic, made his way back down to the rushing river, canoed back to the log and handed his valuable research to a friend. It was a journey he made several times that evening.

By the end he could barely feel his legs.

"I could hardly walk but the adrenaline kept me going, just the fact that you’re getting the stuff."

Two days earlier, on Friday, Oct. 17, he wasn’t thinking about "stuff" as he rushed back home from Whistler where he had been collecting black bear hair samples.

At that time the banks of the Cheakamus were threatening to spill over and he had only thoughts of his family in mind.

"When I drove up my heart just about jumped out of my mouth," he said.

His wife and terrified seven-year-old daughter were across a rising tide of water. He put his high beams on and climbed out of his truck into the water.


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