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Floodwaters in Chilliwack bring inspiration for Salmon Arm couple

A shift to ‘smelling the roses’ while stranded changes a week away
Rob Hislop and his spouse Tammy were visiting family in Chilliwack for the weekend of Nov. 12 when they discovered with frustration they wouldn’t be returning to Salmon Arm. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)

Out of the mud and wet of the floodwaters that devastated parts of B.C. rose some inspiration for a Salmon Arm couple.

Residents Rob and Tammy Hislop went to Chilliwack on Nov. 12 to visit their daughter, Ashley, son-in-law Jeremiah Bjorndal, and grandkids Brubekk, Esben and Bergen, ages seven to four. They went to look after the children while Ashley and Jeremiah went to Vancouver for an anniversary weekend.

“They were leaving the dogs and the kids with us – and we had a blast. It was a really good weekend,” said Rob. “And then Sunday, that’s when you know, everything was falling apart, and the roads were washing away.”

Rob and Tammy were supposed to leave Sunday afternoon, so Rob was on his phone trying to figure out how they were going to get home. First the Coquihalla was washed out. And then Highway 1.

“Every time I picked a new route – we were even going to Whistler and then down through the States. They all just kept falling apart on us. Even to get to the States we couldn’t because Chilliwack became, what we joked about later, was an island. There was water all around us, and there was no way to leave anywhere. So we just had to stay there. And so that throws your plans off; we have jobs, we want to get back and we were quite frustrated Sunday night. Even Monday, we’re feeling sorry for ourselves and frustrated at the whole situation,” Rob said.

But then, things changed. The frustration floated away.

“We recognized together, we’d been a day, or day-and-a-half all mad and frustrated and moping and watching the news, and I just had to stop and recognize, we’re in somebody’s home. That the people who live here – it’s my kids and our grandkids, this is their home and they love it. They’re not upset that they’re here in this house. This is where they come to for their home. And if we were granted a surprise week off, where would we want to be? I can’t think of a better place, or we couldn’t think of a better place, than with our family like that.”

That was the Hislops’ big shift, going from very grumpy to recognizing how lucky they were.

“We weren’t sitting in our cars waiting for the traffic to go. We weren’t trying to find a hotel room. We were in a place we cherished to be…” Rob said. “And we didn’t stop to appreciate, you know, the smell the roses idea. We didn’t stop to think about where we were. And how lucky we were and the fun we could have…, that extra few days with our family.”

Read more: As the Coast experiences wettest fall ever, Okanagan sees normal rainfall

Read more: EXCLUSIVE: Ground zero shows flooding of Hwy. 1 in the Fraser Valley

Because it was pouring rain there was then a lot of puzzle-making and game-playing and some pancake-cooking, he said. Chilliwack also has a great pool they visited.

While he and his family had joked that Chilliwack was an island, he said he was pretty uncomfortable with just how flat the island was as the rain continued. The gas stations were out of fuel, the grocery stores were wiped out of perishables and people were lined up around the outside of Walmart to get supplies. His family was able to dig into the freezer and roast a turkey. And they managed to find toilet paper at Home Depot.

“So we didn’t suffer at all,” he said. “We were blessed and very lucky.”

He and Tammy were expecting a long ride home on Nov. 20, so they packed water and food and blankets, everything they’d need, but it went relatively quickly. When they crossed over the bridge to Agassiz to Highway 7, they passed the major slide where the highway was one lane.

“It’s an eerie feeling when you look to the left and the mountainside has come down. You look to the right and the trail of mud that’s gone off and at the front edge of that trail are a couple of cars upside down. And you realize how real this is, when we had the luxury of just listening to it on the news…”

From Hope they took the Hope-Princeton, where a lot of the highway had been eroded, but they were able to get through to Kelowna and on to Salmon Arm.

Rob said he doesn’t plan to travel soon and is encouraging his family not to come to Salmon Arm for Christmas.

He reiterated how the recognition of his reality shocked him followed by the shift from negative to positive.

“I usually think I’m always on the positive side of the world, in my mind, but I certainly wasn’t at that time… I know all of us enjoyed ourselves more when we were appreciating the home that we were able to be in.”

Read more: Hope and faith: Salmon Arm couple get home safely with appreciation for community spirit

Read more: Evacuees from Merritt shaken, stressed, but grateful for support in Salmon Arm
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Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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