The storm waters deposited so much hail in the camp after receding that it looked like a January snowstorm had hit Anita Place. (Neil Corbett/THE NEWS)

Freak weather hammers Maple Ridge homeless camp

Deep, icy water ran through Anita Place, soaking tents and possessions

Residents of Anita Place Tent City were literally waist deep in water on Friday night, as a freak weather event dumped hail and water on downtown Maple Ridge.

“It was a torrential downpour, and after 10 minutes there was about five feet of water and raging river through here,” said one homeless man.

“It was a foot high in this tent,” said another, standing in the warming tent on Saturday morning drinking a donated coffee.

“We had to jump on that table there just to keep out of the ice cold water. Rats were scraping and clawing. Then you had a bunch of looting…”

One young woman described icy cold water filling her tent to above the knees. She screamed for help, but nobody came. Another’s woman’s tent collapsed just after she got out of it.

Even the tents left standing had been in the middle of a “river” just the night before.

Another Anita Place resident stood looking at his damaged tent, full of a wet foam mattress and hailstones and most of his possessions.

“I just raised it about a foot, but I never dreamt anything like this would ever happen. I don’t have anything anymore, everything has been destroyed. It’s just overwhelming.”

He said it is not easy for a homeless person to acquire a new tent.

All residents are left with soaked or damaged tents, bedding, clothing and other possession. Everyone said they did not know what to do next.

They are being offered shelter at the Greg Moore Youth Centre, but many do not want to leave what they might be able to salvage of their belongings at the camp.

Maple Ridge mayoral candidate Mike Morden said a person familiar with the camp reported to him that camp residents were being electrocuted as flooding water hit extension cords. That was about 5 p.m. on Friday. Morden told him to call 9-1-1 and have the fire department shut off the power.

“There’s wiring all over the place that is unsafe,” Morden said of the camp.

He went to Anita Place, and said the fire department responded perfectly. However, this flooding event highlights the unsafe situations that are allowed to exist at the camp. Because of addiction “sensible decision making is not in play,” said Morden.

“There could be loss of life. It is gravely concerning, and it is why I want it shut down,” Morden added.

Fire Chief Howard Exner said firefighters never found an electrocution victim, but said the scenario is “quite believable” given the extension cords that crisscross the camp. They did shut down power to the site.

Exner said many people across Maple Ridge, covering a radius of eight to 10 blocks on either side of 224th Street, had flooding, leaks and other storm-related problems. Firefighters responded to about 20 calls of flooded homes, he said.

But he said the homeless residents were seriously impacted.

“They did get hit hard, especially in that they’re living in tents and in shanty buildings.”

He said emergency responders brought a transit bus to the camp for people to take shelter.

The Greg Moore Youth Centre was flooded, but city employees “went above and beyond,” and prepared it to be used as a homeless shelter for the night, and 44 Anita Place residents signed in there.

Approximately 15-20 people refused to leave the camp, said Exner.

“There’s a strong cohort of people who will not move.”

Emergency social services is working with camp residents, to determine what they need to stay at the camp, be it new tents or dry sleeping bags.The rest will be given emergency shelter, although a decision as to where was not yet made.

“We will be accommodating them somewhere tonight, if they need accommodation or want it,” said the fire chief.

Exner said the fire department’s position is not that the camp should be closed, but as long as it exists, it must be safe for people staying there.

There are shanty buildings going up that are not fire safe, there are other fire hazards, electrical hazards, gasoline cans and propane bottles and other concerns.

“It (the storm fallout) highlights a lot of the concerns we have,” said Exner. “It’s not safe. That’s a concern to me – greatly.”

He noted that modular housing will be available on nearby Royal Crescent in October.

“Hopefully a lot of these people will be able to get more stable housing there,” said Exner.

 

This resident of Anita Place Tent City said all of his possessions were drenched by the Friday night storm. (Neil Corbett/THE NEWS)

Residents were left with no place warm and dry to stay. (Neil Corbett/THE NEWS)

Just Posted

Surrey-based group maps places to find affordable food

Surrey and White Rock Food Coalition targets food security

Youth and seniors learn from each other

Seniors Health Network launches intergenerational program in White Rock

Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society raises $8,000

Donations collected at Christmas event last week

Realtor blanket drive collects 360 bags of clothing

Annual event helps South Surrey and White Rock residents in need

VIDEO: Hundreds of volunteers collect, wrap toys in Surrey at Sikh elementary school

Guru Nanak Free Kitchen, Sikh Academy partner together on annual toy drive

MAP: Christmas light displays in Surrey, Langley and beyond

Send us pictures of your National Lampoon-style lit-up homes, nativity scenes or North Pole playlands

Canucks score 3 power-play goals in 4-2 win over Oilers

Vancouver sniper Boeser has 6 goals in last 5 games

VIDEO: Giants head into holidays with a win at home

Vancouver G-Men don’t play next until Dec. 28, after 2-1 victory over Prince George Sunday.

Microscopic parasite found in Prince Rupert water affecting thousands

More than 12,000 residents affected by the boil water advisory issued Dec. 14

Trudeau lashes out at Conservatives over migration “misinformation”

Warning against the “dangers of populism,” Trudeau says using immigration as a wedge political issue puts Canada’s future at risk.

B.C. hockey coach creates ‘gear library’ to remove cost barrier of sport

Todd Hickling gathered donations and used gear to remove the cost barrier for kids to play hockey.

VIDEO: Giants fall to Royals 4-2 in Victoria Saturday night

Second loss in as many days for G-Men, who are back home in Langley today to take on the Cougars.

Canada’s ambassador meets with second detainee in China

Global Affairs says John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, met with Spavor Sunday

‘They’re coming:’ Flying cars may appear in urban skies by 2023

Air taxis will number 15,000 and become a global market worth $32 billion by 2035

Most Read