Having seen some of his citizens become a tad unglued on Wednesday, Mayor Herb Pond as we reported yesterday was a frequent contributor to the radio airwaves and local print media with a message to refrain from panic.
Wednesday for the most part it seemed to go unheeded, as locals did not enjoy their finest hour, as they jammed local gas stations to wait in gas line ups and emptied the shelves of such essentials as milk, bread and produce (with the exception of pineapple for some reason, Overwaitea seems to have the largest collection of the fruit, which must say something about our preferences, even in a panic). There were scattered reports of confrontations over grocery items at local stores, perhaps the thing of urban legend, but considering the silliness seen yesterday something that is completely believable.
By mid day today, the gas situation got a little more complicated as Chevron had joined 7-11 as having run out of fuel, Petro Can likewise was turning away customers, leaving Husky and Race Track gas as the only locations with gasoline to sell. A supply that will probably be exhausted before the weekend is out, if it isn’t already at that state.
The promise of supply trucks arriving by ferry and barge by Friday should begin to allay some of the panic that enveloped the city on Wednesday, though we suspect that it will be a case of the early birds getting the worm when it comes to milk, bread and produce, items which seem to be the gold standard for those that are inclined to buy in bulk and in buy in panic.
The Daily News reviewed Wednesday’s day of madness with a front page story and an editorial on the issue in Thursday’s paper.
MAYOR URGES RESIDENTS NOT TO PANIC, SUPPLIES COMING
There is no need to bulk-buy says Pond as people stock up on supplies
By Leanne Ritchie
Thursday, June 7, 2007
Pages one and five
Despite a large number of people clogging stores and gas stations in a rush to stock up on milk, perishables and gasoline yesterday, Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond said the city is being assured by its merchants that there is no reason for people to panic.
“We do need to be psychologically prepared for the road being unavailable for the next week perhaps. There’s no predicting what Mother Nature is going to do here,” said Pond.
Highway 16 between Prince Rupert and Terrace was shut down Tuesday afternoon around 3 p. m. at the Port Edward turnoff after the river began flooding parts of the highway. In addition, the highway between Terrace and Smithers has been closed because of flooding and the temporary openings for traffic through the mudslide east of Terrace have been suspended.
However, local grocery stores have confirmed plans to barge in food and gas stations are looking at taking similar action.
“Usually, our shipments are brought in by truck through Smithers and Terrace but as we have some obstacles in the way, we have sourced a barge that is leaving from Port Hardy,” said Scott Gibney, Canada Safeway spokesperson.
Overwaitea has also confirmed plans to barge in groceries.
“We may experience late orders but we will have a regular supply of groceries for our customers,” said Julie Dickson, Overwaitea spokesperson.
“We have been assured the fuel supply, if people don’t go overboard, should be quite adequate,” said Pond.
“If people just do their regular shopping, there won’t be a problem.”
Pond said it is important to realize that any current shortages are the direct result of hoarding, not supply problems.
“Prince Rupert is famous for sharing, We’ve survived far worse incidents by looking after each other. Let me encourage those people who may have overstocked in a moment of panic, to check that their neighbours are OK. We really do have more than enough to go around.”
Hot weather this past weekend caused the record level snow packs in the region to melt rapidly, causing subsequent flooding in the Skeena, Nass and Bulkley Valley Rivers.
Local fisherman Fred Hawkshaw said the Skeena looks like the open ocean right now, full of swells and whirlpools that are strong enough to suck down full-sized trees.
“I would not take a boat up there right now,” he said.
Pond said the city is keeping a watchful eye on its upriver neighbours who, without marine access, are facing much more serious challenges, and often with far fewer options available.
“They have our prayers and support,” he said.
The first evacuations got underway across the province Wednesday and residents of hundreds of other homes got ready to flee the surging river waters on short notice.
Sandbagged dikes built by homeowners trying to save their properties along the Skeena River were holding in some instances, but not in others, said Public Safety Minister John Les.
“Obviously there are several neighbourhoods in Terrace and surrounding areas that are pretty heavily impacted,” Les said.
So far, the damage has been limited to flooded basements, said Terrace Deputy Mayor Marilyn Davies.
However, about 200 people in 50 homes were ordered evacuated from Brauns Island just outside Terrace because of the flooding Skeena River.
Wes Patterson, emergency manager for the Kitimat-Stikine regional district, said many of the residents had left before the order was given but others remained behind to sandbag their homes.
Terrace became the latest city to declare a state of emergency in the face of rising rivers, making the pre-emptive move in an effort to ensure a potential evacuation goes more smoothly.
Some residents have said they’ll wait to see how high the water gets but officials fear they could leave it too late and find themselves stranded.
However, Patterson said the holdouts would not be abandoned.
“We’re not going to allow people to suffer and die in the area because they decided to stay,” he said.
“But at the same time, realize that those resources that we’re using to ferry people across water – which is what really you’re doing – are better used in the event of an emergency.”
Patterson noted his district has only one trained water-rescue team.
Terrace and the surrounding area with a population of about 18,000, has been effectively isolated by a mudslide on Highway 16 east of the city and flooding to the west that cut the highway and submerged the CN Rail line.
“We are cut off, we’re totally isolated,” said Davies. “We’re actually the only part of the province that can’t be reached by an alternate route.”
Terrace’s airport remains open and crews are working to upgrade a forestry road as a detour around last week’s mudslide, which claimed two lives.
But Davies said it won’t be long before the city experiences shortages of fuel and other essentials.
Les promised the government would ensure the communities get critical supplies.
With files from CP.
WE SHOULD PRODUCE MORE, CLOSE TO HOME
The Daily News
Thursday, June 7, 2007
The cruise ship passengers walking around our town yesterday must have looked at all the line-ups and thought they had taken a trip back through time to the Soviet Union of the 1950’s.
They would have been blissfully unaware of the landslides and floods inland and that fact that our town was cut off by road.
All they knew was what they saw – the huge anxious lines of people loading up on bread, milk, gasoline and other essentials. The bare shelves.
We have been getting eyewitness reports at the Daily News of near dust ups at the delicatessen counters, fisticuffs in the fish aisle, aggression at the gas pump and bedlam in the bread section.
We have heard about line-ups outside gas stations extending off the forecourt and half way around the block.
People have relayed stories of emptied fruit and veg bins and of shoppers buying armfuls of salad bags and other perishables
Mayor Herb Pond has issued a statement appealing for people to calm down and urging those in hoarding mode to share what they have with their neighbours.
It‘s hard to believe it right now but Prince Rupert survived perfectly well for many decades before they finally punched the road through next to the Skeena and connected us up to Terrace.
We always had the rail link, of course but the road that so many of us are in a panic about losing is a relatively new addition. Much of the food people needed was brought in by boat, just like it will be today.
But in the past, people the world over were more self-sufficient than we are today.
They grew vegetables in greenhouses and back yards. They kept chickens for eggs and pigs for slaughter and they were more able to eat what was available naturally all around them.
Today, with that sore of self-sufficiency no more than a memory, we are inclined to overreact at the prospect of supermarket shelves going empty.
We should learn to relax. The shelves will only go empty if people panic and buy way more than they need. The supermarkets have plans in place to barge up produce and bring it in by ferry. No one is going to starve.
Maybe in the years ahead we should learn not to put all our eggs in one basket, so to speak, and start growing and raising some of our own meat and produce a little closer to home to supplement the stuff we ship in. It’ shard to imagine that there would not be a good year-round market for locally-grown organic food. And it’s hard to imagine that our excellent grocery stores would not want to put such items on their shelves. And maybe with a little more self-sufficiency we would be a lot less jumpy for the next time the road washes out for a few days.