Don’t build your house on the sand ~ or at the bottom of a lake?

written by Lee Strauss | Lee Strauss, musings

November 27, 2021

As I write this, I'm literally living in an RV park called Little Paradise.

Such a far cry from my home province of British Columbia which is experiencing a serious weather event with devastating flooding ~ and we thought the summer was bad with its “heat dome” and wide-spread wild fires!

Though the term isn't new, I'd never heard of an “Atmospheric River” before. I don't think I was alone, otherwise people would've been more frightened by the weather warning and wouldn't have travelled on the day a river of water fell from the sky, washing out all the major roadways leading to Vancouver, and killing five people in mudslides.

All the major highways leading to Vancouver and its supply ports had major damage, virtually shutting access to BC's largest city from the rest of the province. The most popular artery, the Coquihalla Highway, is estimated to be closed for months, well into 2022, if not beyond. I just drove the route this summer when I took my daughter to a doctor's appointment there.

Coquihalla Highway/Caroline Mine/BC Ministry of Transportation/Flickr – One of many road washouts.

Though many communities were affected with whole towns being evacuated due to rivers overflowing their banks and even re-routing, the greatest devastation happened in a place called Abbotsford, just outside of Vancouver in the Fraser Valley.

Rising floodwaters surround barns in Abbotsford on Tuesday. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Thousands of animals were lost: cattle, hogs, chickens (link). Also mature blueberry farms, and other crops. Though I had lived in Abbotsford for three years, and I knew about all the farming there, I didn't realized that Sumas Prairie was once called Sumas Lake. Check out this link for incredible images.

It used to be a lake.

A hundred years ago, the colonists decided to drain the lake by building dikes and a pump station to reroute the water (it has to go somewhere) and turn it into farmland. It also meant pushing out the First Nation community (Native Canadians) off their land and taking away their livelihood that came from the lake. In this news story, the Sumas First Nations chief shares what happened to his people a hundred years ago (link), And just for the record, this isn't the first time the region has experienced major flooding. It happened in 1894, 1948 and 1990 as well.

1990 flood vs. 2021 flood at Highway 1’s Whatcom interchange in Abbotsford. (BC Archives/City of Abbotsford)

I've driven this highway numerous times, and it's surreal to see it underwater now. And there's two more atmospheric rivers events in the forecast.

Plus the pump is damaged. And it was known that the infrastructure was in need of fortifying (link), but the cost would've been over 400 million dollars, and well, that's a lot of money.

And now the damages are over 1 billion.

Where am I going with this?

Honestly, I don't know.

Should we leave nature alone and find better ways to co-exist?

If society was as “woke” in 1920 as it is now, would the lake have been taken away from the First Nation community? Would we have found alternative ways to farm effectively? Perhaps by making use of the lake?

Can we continue to ignore the continuing change in climate, particularly the growing number of extreme weather events?

And the biggest question: what should we do now?

I wish I had the answers. What do you think?

In happier news:

Death by Dancing is releasing this week! And I have a new pre-order up.

Though I'm truly thankful to be sitting in my little paradise, my thoughts and prayers are with those who are facing very real struggles. Hang in there, everyone. There is hope.

In the meantime, escape into another world by reading!

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  1. I, too, am well past 70, but I still sometimes read the news and make comments on human behavior. This taking control of mother nature doesn’t usually work, or not for very long. I know of at least one housing tract built in a riverbed in California. It still rains in this sunny state, and sometimes the architects miss the boat, or the builders shortsheet the materials, or the equipment used to keep up the control of hydroelectric dams, etc., is not maintained properly or upgraded when needed. That’s what turns a $400 million repair into a $6 billion replacement, and the loss of human and animal life, and destruction of property that will never be replaced. You’d think people would learn after so many, many disasters that they can’t take the easy way out, throw a little money at a problem site, then walk away with everything just fine and dandy forever. Unfortunately, greed and stupidity haven’t been bred out of our genes, so until we get enough people with power (voting?) to step up and say “No” to a proposed disaster-in-waiting, we will continue to have horrific examples of how not to confront the elements.

  2. So sorry to hear all this. My daughter lives in Vancouver WA and the weather events there have been very scary for all of us. If you can Lee, continue to use your voice; you reach a lot of people and I can only hope we can get through to those who don’t believe.

  3. 65-70 years ago my mom said that humanity would be sorry for all it was doing to change nature. I have seen she was right over the years.
    20 years ago there was a report of jungles and how atmospheric changes had changed them. Changes in nature happen. We just think we are smart enough and powerful enough to make proper changes. We aren’t.

  4. I agree—the questions you pose needed serious consideration in past generations as well as today. I think about these and similar issues, but I don’t let issues consume me. I’m over 70 and have only one vote. I still care, but there isn’t much that I can do any more. I hope voices like yours will be heard.

    I still keep up with the news, but on most days I spend several hours reading. Your books and many of my other favorite authors take me to different worlds which are extremely entertaining and often challenging as I lean toward mysteries, although I read other types of books too. I feel I almost know my favorite characters. So glad Haley is returning. Thanks for the hours of enjoyment you have given me. Happy Holidays to you and your family.

    1. Nothing like a good book to whisk away an afternoon. I’m happy to hear you’re enjoying my books! And you’re welcome.

  5. I am so sorry to hear of this tragedy. Unfortunately, I think this will keep progressing until some critical changes are made.

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