One of B.C.’s great drives is facing a long road to recovery.
Located between the small communities of Merritt and Spences Bridge, Highway 8 sustained catastrophic damage during last week’s flooding.
Recent aerial footage showed sections of the twisty, fun-to-drive highway are missing — washed away by the winding Nicola River.
The two-lane highway carves through scrubland, and was a great experience in a sports car, convertible or motorbike, along with being an important route.
“You could never dream in your wildest dreams something like this happening,” said farmer Steven Rice, who was evacuated to Spences Bridge, a small community off the highway.
“The aftermath and destruction, and not knowing if you could ever get back home, and some people are thinking that right now.”
Prior to the recent flood damage, whenever the well-travelled Coquihalla Highway was closed, Highway 8 was sometimes used as a detour.
It’s also a direct link from the Coquihalla to the Trans-Canada Highway, though there are other longer routes to Highway 1.
Rice said media coverage of Highway 8 communities has not been as thorough as coverage around other highways, even though their residents may face a longer journey back to stability.
“This is long-term. Keep in mind, us in Highway 8, we live off the land … and we have no power,” he said.
Many residents have lost their winter food and fuel supplies, he explained, and Highway 8 likely won’t be first on the list of repairs.
On its current road advisories page, B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation simply lists Highway 8 as being closed, with no estimated time of reopening.
A look from yesterday afternoon at #BCHwy8
Via @DriveBC – Closed due to flooding between Porcupine Ridge Rd and Petit Creek Rd for 33.5 km (east of #SpencesBridge to 17km west of #Merritt). Assessment in progress. Estimated time of opening not available. https://t.co/KlVsUcVW9g pic.twitter.com/NEbfiHRvcJ
— BC Transportation (@TranBC) November 17, 2021
Most areas are inaccessible by vehicles and will require the construction of access. As we continue to assess the damage, we’ll provide further details on the extent and estimated restoration times. Please continue to find the latest updates at https://t.co/JY7BGL1bO4. #BCStorm pic.twitter.com/WLYEDOACEX
— BC Hydro (@bchydro) November 22, 2021
In posting the aerial videos to its Twitter feed this week, BC Hydro said it was assessing the damage, and that 90-plus power poles have been either damaged or washed away.
A BC Hydro spokesperson also said 14 transformers were damaged and that the company’s infrastructure there was basically destroyed, meaning extensive restoration will be required.
According to the Ministry of Transportation, the damage on Highway 8 includes 18 affected sites, including four bridges.
The ministry said some sites have had temporary remediation to allow access, and that it’s working with local and Indigenous governments to coordinate and support impacted residents.
The ministry also said an alternate route has been established by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and its contractor in the vicinity of the bridge at Canford. Weight restrictions are in place on the temporary bridge.
There is no timeline for repairs to Highway 8, as assessments are still underway.
In addition to Highway 8 being closed, an evacuation order is in effect for part of the highway, according to the Thompson-Nicola Regional District.
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