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Mayor’s Column – September 13, 2017

September 13, 2017


These last months have impressed on us the vulnerability of our position in an unpredictable world. (I guess some things are predictable in general terms but precision as to month, day, hour, and person is still very much a guess.) Last year Chetwynd and surrounding rural residential areas were hammered by the second major flood in five years; we got all psyched up this year in mid June for a flood that didn’t materialize. Instead, we were left to sympathize at a distance with the folks who were, and still are, experiencing the worst wild fires in BC memory. Fire or water, we’ve been through it and have the personal experience of disruption and loss to prove our experience.

The recent marriage of Houston, Texas and Hurricane Harvey, stormy at best, violent, long-lasting, and likely global in effect at worst, carries potential to reach into our wallets way up here in the supposed insularity of Chetwynd. Forget your insularity. Ye don’t got any. It’s a global economy that we inhabit and when Houston is hammered, we feel the pain and see the bruises.

Not being a prophet, the son of a prophet, or an economist (I am eagerly awaiting the entertainment factor of the economists who are bound to wax eloquent on money matters, global trade, and the Houston effect at the Union of BC Municipalities convention in a couple of weeks.), I can only note the upstream end and the downstream end of crude-oil pipelines. The stuff that goes into the up end as crude comes out of Houston as gasoline and other combustibles. Because we inhabit a global economy, expecting higher prices at the pumps, if not real shortages, is a reasonable, if not comforting, mental exercise.

But we have our own vulnerabilities to consider. Two major floods within five years should give us pause to reflect on how to meet the next flood whenever it comes.

Some questions I will ask myself – and answer – include the following: Do I have two weeks’ supply of non-perishable food stored in a place outside the reach of flood water, rodents, mildew, and other destructive elements? Ditto for clean drinking water. (Non-perishable food should include some of the staples such as dry beans and lentils, a variety of canned goods, and other stuff compatible with your own taste buds and budget.) Do I have reliable flash lights, and a generator with fuel where applicable? What about relevant insurance coverage? I’m just getting you started thinking in the right direction. Really, there will be times in which you might find yourself on your own with no one to bring you help. Will you be ready?

A deluge in the hills above our home town could cut off all transportation links for days. Store shelves could long be empty before links are reopened – supposing you can even get across town.

So, I need to ask what the District of Chetwynd can do more to reduce the effect of a major event of flood, fire, or toxic spill on the life of the community. What can we do more? There, I’ve just asked the question but the answers are not simple.

We can keep our stream beds free of impediments to water flow. We can build levies in strategic locations. We can ensure that the drainage systems are adequate to accommodate the expected flow. We can keep an up-to-date list of up-to-date equipment to put to work on a day’s notice.

That will help the community weather moderate events such as we have already experienced. But the big one? It’s up to all of us to be individually prepared.

Oh, by the way, “adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant” Horace (65-8 BC).

Merlin Nichols, Mayor