Overnight sandbagging in Yarrow drew more than 150 volunteers

City of Chilliwack brought sand, but it was ‘community organizing effort’ to fill, place them

It was a community effort Thursday night filling hundreds of sandbags in Yarrow to keep the flood waters at bay.

City of Chilliwack crews dropped off the sand at a central location on Eckert Street in Yarrow, and more than 150 volunteers shovelled sand and transported sandbags to where they were needed over several hours.

Coun. Jason Lum, a resident of Yarrow, and chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District, thanked the volunteers profusely.

“Earlier this evening there was a community driven sandbagging effort for local Yarrow residents who are experiencing high waters on the western side of town,” Lum posted.

He credited Darnell Barkman and “the wonderful volunteers” who bagged sand and assisted owners of homes and farms who had requested sandbags by delivering them.

Although the city provided the sand, “this was a community organizing effort!” the city councillor said.

Jessica Armstrong posted photos and comments online after pitching in: “Great night sandbagging in Yarrow. Can’t believe how fast it went with everyone involved. Laid bags around a few houses and a chicken barn. They even went under someone’s deck to do a thorough job. Way to go guys and gals!”

She gave kudos to RCMP who allowed volunteers from Chilliwack to come into Yarrow to help with the collaborative effort.

“They are getting a lot of flack for not allowing people into the flood zone, but in the case of helping they made an exception and even thanked us for our efforts,” Armstrong said.

Thomas Thalen of Chilliwack joined the large contingent of volunteers who helped out by either filling sandbags, transporting them, or placing them up against homes and outbuildings.

“Whoever was organizing did a good job,” Thalen said. “The number of people who showed up was awesome.”

Thalen spent more than an hour sandbagging, but some volunteers were there for hours, he said.

City of Chilliwack staff will continue to monitor water levels in Yarrow, and they did not see a significant rise in water levels, with less than a two-inch rise overnight Thursday to Friday morning.

“I was personally at Sand Road at 6 p.m. this evening (Thursday) and the water had not crested the road, and only risen slightly since noon,” Lum said. “It is important to understand that we expect the water to continue to rise slowly, and there are some houses that are currently under our evacuation order that we believe will be affected. That is why we kept them under order.”

The Barrowtown flood gates had not been opened yet, as the river level on the Fraser has not dropped enough open the gates. The pump station is still operating at full capacity and doing its job.

“We are hoping the gates can be opened Friday.”

City staff are on site 24 hours a day monitoring the situation and will take appropriate action to ensure the safety of residents.

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