Revelstoke reacts to B.C. flood disaster

We spoke with Revelstoke organizations to find out about their near-term response to the B.C. flooding crisis that has created major transportation disruption in B.C.

File photo: Transport trucks on the Revelstoke Bridge over the Columbia River. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

By Aaron Orlando with contributions from Bailey Gingras-Hamilton

The November 2021 B.C. flooding disaster largely spared the Revelstoke area. Although there was heavy rainfall that shut the Trans-Canada Highway west of Revelstoke for part of a day, the Revelstoke area was spared the deluge experienced by the southwest of the province.

However, Revelstoke has been impacted, particularly by highway and railway closures that are severely limiting travel and transportation.

This week, we checked in with some Revelstoke organizations to find out about their response to the situation.

Community Connections Food Bank anticipates challenges

Thanks to partnerships with local farmers and markets, Community Connections ensures that good food is not wasted. Photo: Bailey Gingras-Hamilton

As highway closures stress an already tense supply chain, grocery stores across Revelstoke are facing critical shortages.

The empty shelves are affecting the Community Connections food recovery program, but the food bank is still distributing hampers to anyone in need. According to Hannah Whitney, food and outreach coordinator at Community Connections, the organization is turning to smaller, local businesses to fill supply gaps.

“A lot of our produce specifically comes from [grocery store] food recovery, which comes to us for free,” says Whitney. If grocery shelves are empty, that means no produce is left over for donations. “I think we’re going to have to look a little further, [or] purchase produce from local suppliers.”

Since Community Connections operates an income-based food insecurity program, they are not equipped to handle wide scale emergency food insecurity. However, Whitney emphasizes that the Community Connections Food Bank has no minimum needs assessment to access their program. In fact, she encourages anyone who is in doubt about their next meal to reach out.

“Sometimes the people who are most in need are the people who judge themselves the hardest about whether they qualify or not,” Whitney elaborates. For those fortunate enough to fill their fridge this week, Community Connections always accepts food and monetary donations

Tourism Revelstoke encourages visitors to check travel information

Skiers and snowboarders gather for lunch at Mackenzie Outpost at Revelstoke Mountain Resort on Mar. 13, 2021. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

The B.C. flooding brings new challenges to the tourism sector, which has already been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Transportation is one obvious factor, and the Tourism Revelstoke says it will seek to help visitors with transportation messaging as the situation unfolds.

Tourism Revelstoke spokesperson Robyn Goldsmith said Tourism Revelstoke is adapting with the challenges.

“Our response is to encourage visitors and travelers to be vigilant and to check Drive BC before making travel plans. We are waiting on guidance from Destination BC as to whether travel will be restricted going forward – there was mention by the Premier during a press conference that non-essential travel may be limited when the highways reopen in order to allow supplies to get through,” Goldsmith said. “We will support Destination BC’s messaging.”

Goldsmith said because Revelstoke Mountain Resort is not yet open for winter, Revelstoke does not have a large number of visitors traveling to Revelstoke at this time.

“Should the tenuous highway situation continue into December, we will likely incorporate travel messaging into our social media posts and outgoing messaging,” Goldsmith said.

Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce looks to help source alternate goods

Diners on a cafe patio in downtown Revelstoke. Photo: Aaron Orlando

Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce executive director, Stacey Brensrud, said the fastest way to recover from this is to allocate as many resources as possible in private and public sector respectively to reinstate rail and highway infrastructure so that goods and supplies can begin to move across the province.

She said B.C.’s declaration of a state of emergency, “will open up access to pockets of funding which I believe is a good strategy.”

She said the chamber will continue to stay apprised of the current situation, offer ideas and connect with members.

For example, chamber members are working on ways to find alternative sources for businesses. “It is obviously complicated, but it is good to float ideas and have discussions like this,” she said.

Brensrud said she inquired about access for freight through the Kicking Horse Canyon project to shorten the supply chain journey, saying many businesses have pivoted to suppliers from the east to compensate for goods that they typically source from the west.

Regional government response

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District administration offices are located on the waterfront in Salmon Arm.

A Columbia-Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) spokesperson said the role of emergency programs is to provide support to the wider provincial emergency response.

“This situation is currently continuing to unfold in areas west of our boundaries and our response to broader issues like food security and tourism will become more defined as more information becomes available,” the spokesperson said. “The CSRD’s actions and responses will be guided by directions and recommendations from provincial emergency management agencies.”

The Shuswap Emergency Program has opened an Emergency Reception Centre after a request from Emergency Management BC (EMBC), and CSRD emergency programs will respond to any other requests from EMBC as needed.

City of Revelstoke response

Revelstoke City Hall pictured in late February 2021. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

During the course of the week, made three requests to speak with a City of Revelstoke spokesperson to find out the municipality’s response to the situation, but the city did not make anyone available for an interview, despite our repeated follow-up requests.

In a brief statement that consisted of statements copied and pasted from a B.C. government news release, the city said it, “is monitoring the current situation. Programs and services will continue with normal operation and business hours.”

Aaron Orlando is a Revelstoke-based journalist who serves as creative director of and Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. He's been on the news beat in Revelstoke for the past 14 years, serving in senior editorial roles. If you have or call/text him at 250-814-8710.