November 2021, Southern British Columbia receives a weather alert of 3 atmospheric rivers hitting the coastal province over 2 days. There is little warning of the potential severity of the event but by morning, provincial and municipal authorities decide to open their EOC’s. Water flows in the region are recorded as the largest on record and the Coldwater River that runs through Merritt, was estimated at 1000+ year return period. A SOLE and Flood Evacuation Alert is issued for the City and the entire population is evacuated throughout BC to many municipal Reception Centres.
The impact is not isolated to Merritt. Collapsed bridges, landslides, and unprecedented flooding affect many areas surrounding Merritt including the neighbouring First Nations communities. Several people die as a result of the event during the late-night evacuations, and many have lost their homes.
The following year sees the creation and implementation of a dedicated Flood Recovery team to replace infrastructure, cleanup debris, create transitional housing, and tend to the physical and emotional needs of residents in Merritt and surrounding communities.
The emotional toll that it takes a community to live through and recover from such an event can be illustrated in phases identified through disaster research. Upon approaching the anniversary date of the 2021 floods, the City of Merritt undertook a bold step to host a commemorative event for the region that included food, music, artwork, videos, project updates, resources that provided an opportunity for anyone that wanted to come out and “thank their neighbour”.
The day began with a prayer from one of the First Nations elders, Annie Major Rose, as she blessed the event in her native language and then interpreted it English, followed by stories of the historical flooding she and her people have previously experienced.

The Red Cross, Samaritans Purse, Salvation Army, Rotary Club all showed up as they did during the early months of response from November to June (as did others) to help lend a hand and give a hug when needed.

As the transition from recovery projects to normal City operations is almost fully integrated, it is not lost upon anyone that there are still physical and emotional needs to be dealt with. Infrastructure and housing initiatives will be completed as scheduled, but the mental health impacts and emotional needs will take everyone in the community to continue reaching out to help and thank each other as we all continue to heal.

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