Heavy rain has Ucluelet mayor concerned about Hwy. 4 construction schedule

“It sure looks like there’s more than five months of work out there.”

The West Coast lived up to its colloquial Wet Coast alias last week as a reported 371 millimetres of rain hammered down on Ucluelet from Thursday-Saturday.

“371 in 48 hours; that’s a massive amount,” Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel told the Westerly News on Sunday. “It reminds me of the old days when I was younger…We’ve been spoiled with some dryer winters over the last four or five years. Last winter was the most bizarre winter ever; it was just sunny and cold all the time. This winter feels like it’s the 1970s and 1980s where it’s just a torrential downpour for six months.”

Ucluelet resident Liisa Nielsen is a fan of her town’s famously stormy winter months and said she enjoyed watching Mother Nature’s power from a cozy seat indoors with her dogs.

“It was great. It was incredible and awesome to see the amount of rain that fell,” she said. “My backyard turned into a marsh. I had red-winged blackbirds nesting in my backyard. There were ducks floating in my front yard and my chickens hated every moment of it…They’re not like ducks. They like to be on the dry side.”

READ MORE: VIDEO: Storm watching at Wickaninnish Beach

Nielsen has lived in Ucluelet for 12 years and said she’s seen wetter weekends, but Thursday’s torrential downpour was the most rain she’d even seen at one time.

“It rained like three inches in six hours. That was the wettest it got the fastest in my recollection,” she said.

Noel said the cloudburst was one of the largest on record, but noted January was wet in general and he encourages West Coasters to get outside whenever the skies are clear.

“We live on the West Coast. We just get whatever we get when we wake up. Most of us are just more knuckled down inside and maybe doing more activities in our home,” he said. “It does probably get a little bit depressing and pulls them down a little bit. But, right now as we’re speaking, it’s sunny and I guarantee you that there’s probably people in the skate park and people walking the beaches, so you’ve got to just take your windows when they come.”

READ MORE: Winter hits Tofino and Ucluelet with snow and power outages

He said the district’s public works crew keeps an eye on heavy rainfalls because of the effects rough weather can have on Ucluelet’s water reservoir levels, but he added that no concerns were reported.

“In our community, as fast as the water comes, it seems to dissipate,” he said.

He noted other Island communities were hit with flooding and landslides and while Ucluelet was fortunate to escape through the weather without any major incidents, construction crews, notably the ones working on the provincial and federal government’s $38 million Kennedy Hill Safety Improvement Project, were likely “hit hard.”

“These kind of heavy rain events really put the construction crews even that much further behind schedule,” he said.

READ MORE: VIDEO: Heavy rain on B.C. coast swells rivers, floods roads and forces evacuations

He said he received correspondence from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure regarding the highway work over the weekend, but it was not as detailed as he’d hoped.

“It was lacklustre…They gave me a non exciting email, kind of generic, that they’re still working on the plan and hope to update us soon,” he said. “They’re going to be getting us some new information regarding the new timetable and their plan because everybody’s question is, ‘How are you going to blast the rock with a portable bridge in the way?’ Everybody’s just curious and curious minds want to know.”

READ MORE: Tofino-Ucluelet highway reopens after bridge installed earlier than expected

He said he expects to receive more information from the ministry this week and foresees being told the project’s completion date has been pushed back.

“This rain has been here since probably mid-December. I think we are all concerned about it, but we have no control of Mother Nature, so if it’s delayed, it’s delayed. We all just want to be informed of what the new schedule could look like,” he said. “We’ve always been told that in the summer of 2020 it’s done, that’s five months away. It sure looks like there’s more than five months of work out there.”

The Westerly News has reached out to the ministry for comment and will update this story as soon as new information comes in.



andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

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