One year ago, Jeff Morrow looked on in shock as his backyard and deck – and almost his home of more than 30 years – washed into Millstream Creek as Langford and much of southern B.C. was hit by a record-breaking rainstorm.
Now, he is able to walk on the very spot where there once was nothing but a massive hole, and most importantly, his house still stands. But the year-long journey has not come cheap, or easy, and he believes there needs to be some changes in how these disasters are responded to.
“(Most) Canadians cannot buy insurance policies for any type of landslide, rock slide, or avalanche. Canadian insurance companies do not sell policies for those types of events,” said Morrow. “So to this point, and we are very lucky we had a line of credit with our bank when this happened, we have now paid over the past 52 weeks totalling something in the vicinity of $350,000.”
Morrow said the repairs cost him and his wife their retirement savings, even with the province kicking in $81,000 through the disaster financial assistance program.
Beyond the money, Morrow’s life was turned upside down. He and his wife spent five months living in a hotel, which was paid for first by the City of Langford’s Emergency Support Services and then the Canadian Red Cross, until they were able to return to their home in April.
Much of the property repair work was completed in October, but there remains some landscaping work and the installation of a new deck which is scheduled for the spring and is expected to cost an additional $50,000.
Throughout it all, Morrow said everyone he has worked with from all levels of government, emergency aid workers, and the contractors hired to save and rebuild his home have been fantastic. Even environmental study and permitting processes were relatively painless and expedited when it came to the work along the environmentally sensitive creek.
But while he wants to share his experience as an example of what anyone could experience as climate change continues to rear its ugly head on the world, and an example of how important it is to keep faith in the support network which B.C. residents can rely on in a disaster, Morrow feels his experience should also highlight the need for change when it comes to covering the financial costs of natural disasters.
“We are hoping that if the province revisits the disaster financial assistance program, we will be able to reapply to another portion of funding, though we know it won’t be anything close to 100 per cent of what we have paid out,” said Morrow. “I really think the federal government, at some level, needs to be more involved in these sorts of issues. I think there needs to be a bigger role for the federal government to play, both in terms of oversight and in terms of putting pressure on the Canadian insurance industry to be providing policies which cover these situations.”
Most of all, Morrow said he is thankful for the support he has received already, and for the fact the whole ordeal is behind him now. But every time it rains, he will certainly be holding his breath a little as he looks out onto his property.