Torrential rain destroys South Surrey crops

Torrential rain destroys South Surrey crops

SURREY — Arriving at his Cloverdale farm after this weekend’s heavy rains was one of the lowest points in James Yue’s life.

“I was so shocked to see all the water. I was devastated,” he said Tuesday, pointing across 176th Street to the fields where his lettuce, cabbage and leek crops were completely submerged in water.

“It’s like the Pacific Ocean over there.”

Nine acres of Yue’s crops were destroyed after the South Surrey area was pounded by more than 91 millimetres of rain on Sunday. He had to strap on hip waders to survey the damage the next day, and the water reached halfway up his thighs.

By Monday, ducks and geese were landing on the flooded plain, diving down to get a taste of the leafy greens below.

“I lost three generations of crops here. For the whole month of June I won’t have anything to sell. It’s all gone,” Yue said.

Sunday’s heavier-than-expected rainfall resulted in localized flooding in Langley as well, according to Environment Canada meteorologist Doug Lundquist. In South Surrey, a small mudslide closed a section of 16th Avenue, and there were reports of flooded basements and roads in Langley and White Rock.

White Rock was soaked with 87 millimetres, more than a month’s worth of rain, in the 36 hours of the storm and set a new rainfall record of 83 millimetres on Sunday alone.

Maple Ridge received 71 millimetres, while Pitt Meadows saw 54 millimetres. Vancouver and Richmond residents were not nearly as drenched on the weekend, with only 25 millimetres recorded at Vancouver International Airport.

Yue estimated that the flood will cost him at least $100,000 in sales of crops that would have been harvested at the end of May. On top of that, he lost about $5,000 in fertilizer and will have to buy replacement seeds; he’s already spent $1,800 on leek seeds alone.

He said many of his neighbours are in the same situation, with blueberry bushes and leafy vegetable crops flooded out. All they can do now is wait for the municipal pumps to do their work and get rid of the excess water.

A fourth generation farmer, Yue is proud of the work he does producing fresh vegetables, but he said coming in to the farm this week has been depressing.

“My mom’s been farming here for 54 years and she’s never seen anything like this before,” he said. “This is a low, low point of my life. I can take a little bit of rain, but I’ve never seen anything like this.”

But he hasn’t lost his sense of humour, and joked about offering free cabbage to his neighbours — as long as they bring the scuba gear.

“It’s still a long season. I’ll recuperate as long as there’s no rain, but it still hurts.”

With files from Tiffany Crawford and The Canadian Press

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