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Board honours regional staff for efforts during disastersPosted: August 7, 2012

It’s been one hell of a spring and early summer in the East Kootenay – one lousy with natural disasters.

From flooding in Kimberley, to flooding at Dutch Creek, Wasa, Windermere and Tie lakes, to a severe flashflood/mud and landslide at Fairmont Hot Springs, to the July 20 wind storm that pounded the City of Cranbrook and area – Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) staff have been scrambling to stay ahead of Mother Nature and to ensure residents are as well protected as possible.

RDEK board chair, Electoral Area C director Rob Gay, officially thanked regional staff for their efforts in June and July, during the August 3 regular meeting of the board in Cranbrook.

“Often, organizations fail to recognize an opportunity to recognize success,” he said, thanking the regional staff, as well as the Ministry of Forests Fire Suppression crew that did yeoman work with sandbagging at Wasa and Tie Lake.

“We thank you very much for your time and effort,” he said, before presenting gift certificates from local businesses and flowers to nine regional staffers.

Gay also thanked the public who were impacted by the flooding and landslide “for their patience and understanding.”

RDEK Communications Manager Loree Duczek provided a slideshow presentation to board members, highlighting the most recent disasters.

Tie Lake came close to a major flood as “water neared the top of our dam,” she said, and Wasa was a thing of constant worry and focus as “water kept rising.”

However, the Fairmont slide was the unwanted cherry on top of a stress cake.

“When that (earth dam) let go – it was truly staggering,” Duczek said, praising emergency responders “for a very quick response.”

Along with accommodators in Invermere and Radium Hot Springs stepping up to house impacted vacationers and homeowners in Fairmont, a further 30 people were taken into private homes in Windermere, she told the board.
“That is an excellent example of what happens in times of crisis” in the region, she stated.

While clean-up work continued at Wasa and Fairmont, Mother Nature flew over Cranbrook July 20 with heaps of nasty intentions. In the end, an estimated 1,000 trees were knocked over or broken by the micro-burst-driven winds, onto houses, vehicles and more, leaving more than 15,000 homes without power.

Work continues at Fairmont, Duczek said. “Our focus now will shift to looking at a geo-technical assessment of the (Fairmont) Creek.”

The spate of emergencies amounted to 550 hours of RDEK staff time, not including all the other agencies involved in emergency response and clean-up.

“Over my years doing emergency response coordination, I’ve learned a few lessons – no two scenarios are the same,” Duczek said. “The need to communicate with the public has never been greater and consistency is a must. Above all else, you need respect,” she said, adding respect helped create “a unified team.”

Electoral Area F director Wendy Booth told e-KNOW she fielded a few complaints from residents who didn’t understand which agency was responsible for what following the landslide, but overall residents were respectful and understanding.

“I heard nothing but great comments” about responders, said Village of Canal Flats Mayor Ute Juras.

Gay praised Booth and Electoral Area E director Jane Walter for going “beyond the call of duty” during the emergencies. “The public you serve should be very thankful for your work,” he said.

Left to Right - Anita Charest (Deputy Emergency Program/ESS Coordinator, Central Emergency Program), Melody Munro (Compliance Officer).

From left to right...Brian Funke (Engineering Services Manager), Jim Penson (Solid Waste Superintendent), Chair Rob Gay, Jim Miller (Windermere/Fairmont Fire Chief), Dan McNeill (Manager of Building and Protective Services).

Left to right: Loree Duczek, Communications Manager; Carol Lind, Emergency Services Coordinator, Lee-Ann Crane, CAO with Chair Gay in the background.

Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

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