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

Harrowing journey sparks thoughts on future travel, decentralization and kindness of human beings
This photo was taken along the Lougheed Highway - Highway 7, between Mission/Agaissz and Hope on Nov. 14 as Phaedra and Ivan Idzan were travelling past on their way out of Hope after being stranded there for three days. (Contributed)

After a thwarted journey to Vancouver Island, extended stops and unexpected detours, Phaedra and Ivan Idzan made it home to Salmon Arm.

The journey took a week but they returned with gratitude, hope, new perspectives – and a wish for no excitement for a while.

Due to flooding of the Coquihalla and four other highways that converge in Hope, the Idzans found themselves stranded in Hope for three nights, Nov. 14 to 17. They also discovered they’d missed, by just half an hour, slides that destroyed a section of Highway 7, pushing some vehicles into a swamp and leaving about three hundred others on the road between damaged sections.

The first night they slept in their car, the other two nights in a basement bedroom, courtesy of Brandon and Cheyenne Williams. The Williams are cousins of an acquaintance who used to live in Salmon Arm. The couple didn’t hesitate to help the Idzans.

The Idzans also discovered when they left the parking lot of the Silver Creek Travel Centre after that first night, they narrowly escaped flood waters that flowed in to strand people there.

Read more: First members of military contingent arrive in B.C. to assist with flood recovery

The Idzans’ hosts, who they now call life-long friends, have three children. The two oldest – seven years and under, had gone to Agassiz to play with friends. The children ended up on a four-day sleepover there because of flood damaged roads.

“The kids did relatively well, but I think Brandon and Cheyenne were more concerned for the parents,” Ivan smiled.

During the Idzans’ stay, Brandon was gone a lot because he was volunteering with the Baptist church, one of the two large venues – the other the high school – assisting evacuees. Cheyenne was at home with their three-year-old, who, as Ivan said, was doing fine other than wondering, “Who are these people and where are my sisters?” 

The Idzans bought groceries, of which there were plenty as purchases-per-shopper in the Hope store were limited, and made two much-appreciated dinners for the Williams.

It was heartwarming for Phaedra and Ivan to receive phone calls from concerned family and friends. Although they were already well-housed, about four or five subsequent offers came in. 

Brandon asked them if they minded if he brought home another evacuee for dinner; they said anyone was welcome. As it turned out, the stranger turned out to be a woman who moved to Armstrong because of Caravan Theatre. She has known Phaedra’s mom, Cilla Budda, for 10 years. 

The Idzans heard Highway 7 was reopening late that afternoon so those stranded could be guided out. About 7 p.m., they joined a 1,000-car lineup heading out of Hope.

Read more: Lougheed Highway to open westbound for the hundreds of travellers stuck in Hope

Their trip to New Westminster, where they stayed with friends for three days as they figured out a route home, took five hours.

“It was quite surreal to see the amount of debris that had come down (on Highway 7),” Phaedra said. “We’re guessing a big rock must have fallen on the highway as there was a huge hole.”

On the sides of the road about 300 vehicles were parked meticulously, like a huge parking lot, where people stranded between two slides were airlifted out.

“We were very glad to have been half an hour back,” she commented.

Ivan said it was a bit “post-apocalyptic” to be driving towards New Westminster later on a deserted highway that’s normally packed with people and vehicles.

Finally, on Nov. 21, they headed home, taking Highway 3 and then Highway 5 from Merritt to Kamloops.

In the grand scheme of things, said Ivan, he and Phaedra had it relatively easy.

“We did not have any near-death experiences. I’m sure there are lots of stories people would really not want to relive,” he said.

Added Phaedra: “We are so grateful and appreciative to all those who reached out to us and helped us. We were also a bit embarrassed – there were many others who had it far worse than us, losing homes and vehicles.”

Read more: Salmon Arm couple stays hopeful while stranded in Hope

The week left Phaedra with lots of time to reflect.

“It was amazing to see all the people coming together in a crisis,” she said. “A little community opening their hearts and homes to other people… It’s given me faith and hope. We’re going to be able to get through this; it will be a long process.”

She said in the future she would like to stop at smaller towns along the way, to slow down, explore and support them rather than rushing through. She will no longer hop in the car without a second thought; she’s also seen the importance of being prepared, bringing items like blankets, water, cash.

The couple said they’ve seen the need for changes in the face of climate change, one being more decentralization instead of having giant warehouses miles from where their contents are needed.

On the lighter side, the Idzans’ adult children kept them smiling beyond the end of their journey by sending them ‘appropriate’ road songs. As Ivan said the day after they arrived home: “The litany of song suggestions continues.”

One that received a lot of audience appreciation when they were trapped in Hope was Jesus Take the Wheel by Carrie Underwood. Others were: Roll On Down The Highway by BTO; I’m Coming Home Tomorrow by Howard Melvin & the Blue Notes; and Home Sweet Home by Mötley Crüe.

With a smile, Phaedra summed up her thoughts now their journey is behind them.

“We would like a really boring and uneventful few weeks.”

Read more: Chase RCMP find dog missing from Prince George about 600 kilometres away

Read more: Parts of Atlantic Canada cleaning up after three days of heavy rain and powerful wind
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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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