A Cariboo woman drove through the area of the Soda Creek MacAlister Road Saturday night where just hours later a mudslide occurred, resulting in the road being closed.
Laila Potvin said she and her two sons were returning home from a spring break visit to her mom’s place in Toronto.
They’d spent 12 hours in quiet airports and at one point she called her neighbour to ask how the roads were and he told her ‘just go slow in the dip,’ because it was starting to separate and there was a four-inch gap at the site.
“I was prepared, because normally that’s an area where you go quicker and enjoy it.”
She arrived at the spot at about 9:30 p.m. and approached with caution from the south side.
It felt like going over a four-inch speed bump, she recalled.
The next morning, however, when she heard about the slide she went up to investigate at about 11 a.m.
“I have videos of the road disappearing and disintegrating. I messaged the neighbours and told them they should go check it out.”
When asked how she felt, Potvin responded ‘it’s all relative.’
“We’ve got the Coronavirus pandemic.”
Normally her mom will take a photograph at the spot where the slide occurred whenever she comes to visit from Toronto, but from the other side of the slough because it is such a beautiful view, she added.
The road washout does not cut her off completely as she can take another route, she added.
On Tuesday morning the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure confirmed the road was closed as soon as possible by Emcon with signage to alert drivers of the closure.
The cause of the damage is under investigation, as weather in the area was favourable at the time with limited rain in recent weeks.
“A geotechnical assessment will be taking place Tuesday to determine the extent of the damage, and if there is continued movement at the site, before necessary repairs can be carried out,” a MOTI spokesperson noted.
There is no current timeline for re-opening of the road.
Up until the slide, the ministry had not carried out any mitigation measures at this location prior to the road failure on Sunday and there has been no issues at this location since the 1970s, the spokesperson confirmed.
Local access through the area is available via Highway 97, and drivers should continue to check DriveBC.ca and @DriveBC on Twitter for the most up-to-date travel information.
Lynda Archibald has lived in the area for more than 30 years and while the area roads may be muddy they are not normally as bad at this time of year, but there are some rutty sections.
“Because it’s a gravel road and there hasn’t been any new gravel applied. It’s the old original road that went from Soda Creek north.”
Over the years she and her partner Charlie Brous, who own Fraserbench Farm together, have found ox shoes, a mule shoe, and other ‘old stuff’ on the road.
“It’s been used for a long time, but it’s one of those roads that clings to the side of the Fraser River so it’s shifting all the time.”
Sometimes they have to wait a day for snow removal, and have always kept supplies at hand, with a big garden and orchard, big freezers and canned goods, and frozen meats.
“Things we’ve stashed away.”
It’s not a ‘huge’ trial as they are used to putting up with similar things.
“When the 2017 wildfires were here, it took longer to do anything. It would be a bit of a hardship if the power went out.”
In the late 80s, when the Bailey Bridge was pulled out from crossing Soda Creek due to safety concerns, the hillside was sloughing then, she recalled.
“For a spell they wanted us to travel north to the MacAlister railway underpass to access the highway and the school bus was having to go that way as well,” she said. “Finally, the neighbours got together, and the Kaufmans at Dunlevy Ranch organized a road through their property, which now is a proper road out of the valley.”
It’s all river silt material around there and when it gets wet, it becomes like plastic goo, she added, noting they will have to add an additional 20 minutes to their commute to Williams Lake by taking an alternative route because of the slide.
Local resident Diane Dunaway said fortunately no one was hurt and fortunately no one is completely cut off.
“We rely on each other regularly, and to have this physical change during this time of the pandemic feels wrong,” she said. “It’s a first world problem …. but a downer nonetheless.”
Last year there were similar issues in another area of the Soda Creek Road.