Single-lane traffic can now go to and from Queen Charlotte after a landslide closed the highway east of the village for several hours.
BC Hydro also expects to fully restore power to Queen Charlotte by 9 p.m. The landslide brought down a wire, leaving 657 households across the village without power.
Triggered by heavy rainfall, the slide covered the highway between Eagle Hill and Husband Roads with rocks and trees. No injuries were reported.
After the highway was cleared by crews from O’Brien Road & Bridge Maintenance, staff with the Ministry of Transportation had to make sure the slope was stable before re-opening. A drone technician with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations happened to be on-island, and sent photos of the slide area to geotechnicians in Terrace.
“Otherwise we would have had to wait for them to physically get over here,” said Lori Wiedeman, chief administrative officer for the Village of Queen Charlotte.
The Queen Charlotte mainline forestry road between Port Clements and Queen Charlotte remains closed — flooding has made the road impassable.
With more heavy rains in the forecast for Tuesday, Wiedeman said public works staff and first responders are preparing for more flooding in Queen Charlotte and Skidegate.
“We’re just bracing for tomorrow and just hoping it’s not as bad as today was,” she said.
“We anticipate that we’ll have to clear culverts and things because the amount of debris coming down the hill is big right now.”
If anything urgent happens overnight, residents can phone the Queen Charlotte firehall at 250-559-4488, or the Skidegate firehall at 250-559-8300.
The landslide is the first real emergency on Haida Gwaii since the islands’ new emergency notifications system went into effect. Called ePACT, the free service can send text, email, and voicemail alerts to residents, and on Monday village staff used it several times to update everyone on the landslide and highway closure.
Heavy rainfall also caused flooding along parts of several streets in Queen Charlotte on Monday, including 1st Avenue, the road in front of the Haida Gwaii School District Office, 4th Street, 2nd Avenue, and the intersection of Oceanview Drive and Wharf Way. Village staff also reported a rock sluff near the Coho Apartments late this afternoon.
“O’Briens has done a great job putting out cones, and people are slowing down,” said Queen Charlotte Mayor Greg Martin, adding that water had completely covered the road by Sea Raven Motel.
In Skidegate, flooded culverts have also caused a road closure on 4th Avenue.
In a rainfall warning issued for all of Haida Gwaii, Environment Canada says Monday’s rainfall ranged from 30 up to 60 mm in Queen Charlotte.
While the rainclouds will move south Monday night, a second intense front is expected to bring more heavy rain on Tuesday — another 30 to 50 mm are expected, with the highest amounts once again falling near Queen Charlotte.
Environment Canada warns the downpours may cause flash floods and water pooling on the roads.
After the slide, a safe walking route around the debris was identified at Mayor Martin’s property, which happens to be where it all tumbled.
“It’s right in my driveway,” said the mayor. “My garbage cans got buried.”
The walkway through Martin’s property came in handy when students from Sk’aadgaa Naay Elementary and GidG̱alang Ḵuuyas Naay had to cross the slide area this afternoon. Teachers were waiting on either side of the slide area to drive them home.
Martin said there is a huge rock between the slide area and the walking path, so the route was judged safe even if more debris came down.
“We had 100 per cent guaranteed safety, from everything except wet feet.”