Young Surrey family left homeless after windstorm

Two 100-foot trees fell on the family's heritage home in Cloverdale

Shannon McInnes looks around her yard

CLOVERDALE — Think you had a bad weekend in the aftermath of the wild windstorm?

The McInnes family may have you beat.

Thirty-seven weeks pregnant, with three children, two dogs and a husband, Shannon McInnes said her family’s been left homeless after two 100-foot trees fell on their heritage Cloverdale home.

“We were sitting in the den, it was just a regular lazy Saturday morning. I have a high risk pregnancy so the nurses come to our house. We were waiting to hear when they were going to come. Girls in their diapers, me in my pyjamas, my husband just having a coffee and colouring with the kids.”

And then disaster struck. The trees landed near the back of the house close to the pillars that hold the building together. Soon after, a third fell and hit the home again.

“You could feel the jolt. It went over the top of the house all the way to the other side. These were huge trees. They were sitting on the power line and covered our whole porch area,” she said as she gazed around her yard Tuesday morning, now a sea of branches and cut up tree trunks.

“We threw a bunch of stuff in bags. We needed to get out because of the other trees. We also know the structure of our house, it’s an old house, (and) if one of those pillars came down, it would take out this half of the house.”

Within 10 minutes, bags were packed and everyone packed into the car.

The family is staying at a nearby hotel, and have had some help from family, but it’s been a whirlwind, said McInnes. The search is on for a temporary rental, and she said she’s accepted that she won’t be bringing her new baby back to the family home. But she’s counting her blessings.

“It couldn’t been a lot worse. The baby is fine, the kids are fine, and we’ll figure it out. The house could’ve come down when we were sitting in the room there,” she said. “I’ve had my moments, and a lot of tears. I was at the hospital getting the baby monitor and someone asked if I had power at my house. I just started crying and said, ‘I don’t have a house.’”

Now, she’s just trying to mitigate the stress.

“We’ve had blood pressure complications from week 12,” she said of her pregnancy. “I’m actually off work trying to keep my blood pressure down.

“I’m just trying to wrap my head around everything. It’s just so overwhelming.”

Complicating the matter is that the couple had their home on the market for the past year and just sold it. In fact, they sold it Monday, two days after the storm.

“The buyers knew and they still removed subjects. So it’s sold. The emotional ups and down of this has just been crazy.”

The buyers take ownership in January, but Friday – a day before the storm – the McInnes’ signed a tenancy agreement so they could stay and rent the home for two years.

“Our life has been chaotic for the last four years, so we didn’t want to worry about buying another place. The plan is one of us will stay home with the kids while they’re little, so we said let’s just rent. To be able to stay – we were so happy, we didn’t have to move. Then the next day… We’re a family that’s had so much thrown at us – why wouldn’t our house be smushed the day before we’re supposed to sell?” she continued.

“It is what it is. We lean into the chaos. That’s been our life. This is just another chapter in the book of things you just can’t write. You just can’t make this stuff up.”

Mere hours before the trees fell, McInnes and her husband talked about needing to be better prepared for an emergency.

After the recent earthquakes in Mission and Abbotsford, they were discussing preparing emergency kits for their home.

“We’re not as prepared as we should be. I think that’s what everybody is realizing.”

If you have a rental home available, email shanmcinnes@gmail.com.

BE PREPARED

Dan Barnscher, the emergency planner for the City of Surrey, said the severity of last weekend’s storm should motivate residents to be better prepared for the next one.

“It’s sort of a wake-up call for everyone to think about being prepared. Everybody thinks about the disaster being the earthquake, but really it’s as simple as a power outage.”

He said a basic emergency kit should be able to sustain a person or family for a minimum of 72 hours.

While there’s the obvious things to include – food, a can opener, a first-aid kit, water, extra clothing, flashlights – there are many other things people should include, he said.

“Think about your medications, or a spare set of cheap glasses to read, a spare key to the house or the car, pet food or anything pets might need, portable radio, a cellphone charger,” said Barnscher. “Even simple things like a pen and some paper and a post-it note; if your spouse is away at work and can’t communicate and you go to a friend’s house, write a note on a post-it note, tape it to the door.”

Other recommended items to throw in include candles, blankets, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, basic tools, a whistle, duct tape and garbage bags.

“It’s never too late,” he said. “On the weekend it was the wind event that knocked the power out. Next week it could be heavy rain and localized flooding.”

Visit Surrey.ca/city-services/707.aspx to find information on making a plan and getting a kit together.

amy.reid@thenownewspaper.com

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