The town of Hope, in the Fraser Valley, situated on the banks of the mighty Fraser River, is beautiful.
When it’s not pitch black.
Vernon resident Kara Kazimer and her two kids, Alex and Chelsea, made that observation as they are among the hundreds stranded due to landslides Sunday that have closed all major highways, leaving them without a way home.
Unlike other travellers, the Kazimers were able to find a hotel room.
“It’s been a challenge being in a hotel room with two teens who didn’t have wifi,” laughed Kazimer Monday evening. “Panago Pizza here was running by generator and giving out free pizza to stranded travellers. Churches opened, gave out granola bars and water. Hundreds of people are sleeping in their vehicles.”
The Kazimer adventure began with the family attending the provincial youth bowling championships in Surrey, where Alex won his division to advance to the national championships in 2022 in Calgary.
They were heading home Sunday. Kazimer said that because she has teenagers that like to sleep in, they got a bit of a late start on their way home. Just outside of Chilliwack, they ran into four mudslides crossing the freeway. Just outside of Bridal Falls, they discovered the Trans-Canada and Coquihalla Highways were closed.
“We filled up with gas in Hope,” said Kazimer. “We were contemplating driving the Hope-Princeton route but made the decision to stay in Hope. I don’t want to drive at night, especially with this downpour. We checked into an old-fashioned motel, clean and cozy but the kids feel like they are roughing it.
“Went out to dinner…power went off. Couldn’t get food there so we called the truck stop and they had power so off we went to get food.”
There was still no power at 8 p.m. The Kazimers charged their cell phones in the car and cuddled under blankets inside the hotel room with “nothing to do but chill.”
At 10 a.m. on Monday, Kazimer said they were staying another night in the hotel, it was still raining and there was still no power.
“We are safe, warm and bored but feeling good that we got the room when we did,” said Kazimer.
The power came back briefly Monday afternoon, went out again, and came on later in the evening. Wind had picked up speed, she said, and it was still raining.
“Our bellies are full, we are in a warm, safe place with a bathroom and beds to sleep in. There are hundreds of people sleeping in their vehicles in any parking lot they can find. We have a full tank of gas too. Chelsea even made Alex a bowling game to play with our water bottles.
“We are together and able to charge phones in the car when we need to. We are counting ourselves lucky, there are hundreds still stranded on the roads. Our neighbors are nice too. Haha, good thing. We could be here a while. Lol.”
Former Armstrong resident Jason Eckert is also currently at Camp Hope, a conference and convention centre along Highway 7, which is also closed.
“Spent the night in the car but we’re safe and dry,” Eckert said. “Thanks to all at Camp Hope for opening their doors and letting us all in.”
The camp said Tuesday on its Facebook page it’s “bursting at the seams” with people.
Former Lumby resident Tray Phillips has spent the past 18 months living and working in Hope. He lives near Silver Creek which is a tributary to the Fraser River. Hope is known for being rainy, but nothing like what Phillips has seen over the past 48 hours.
“We’ve been told this thing happens every few years but nothing like this,” said Phillips, 23, Monday evening from the home he shares with four roommates with the rain still coming down. They’ve also taken in three stranded motorists.
“Nobody had a clue it would rain this hard. We’re safe for the most part. We heard boulders being tossed in the Fraser River overnight.”
Phillips works at a Hope gas station and convenience store. On Monday, his bosses were giving out free coffee to stranded motorists, and people were buying up essentials.
“It’s crazy busy here today,” said Phillips Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. He started work at 6:30 a.m.
The power was out at his place for about 24 hours, he said, and Phillips and his roomies made the most of the situation by lighting candles and cooking on a gas stove. They also went out to explore the town and surrounding areas, and the havoc caused by the flooding.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” said Phillips, adding one of his roommates works for Canadian Pacific Rail and was out working to remove debris from the tracks.
The Save-On-Foods grocery store parking lot in Hope was full with stranded motorists, said Phillips.