Abbotsford floods: Mayor runs on adrenaline as he leads the city through a flood disaster

Abbotsford, BC –

An unprecedented flood threw Abbotsford into a crisis. And the city’s mayor, Henry Braun, has led the city through that crisis.

“I do not even know what day … it’s because they all look the same,” the mayor said.

From meetings to media briefings to the tossing of emails and text messages, his days are long.

“I get up at 2 or 3 in the morning and come home at 7pm and have something to eat and go to bed,” he said.

He says his wife thinks he’s on adrenaline.

With a police escort from Abbotsford, Braun took a CTV News team exclusively behind the roadblocks on Thursday as he investigated the flood damage and the progress of dike repairs.

“When the dike broke, the farmers near the bridge told us that the water rose three feet every hour,” he said as we drove through the eastern part of Sumas Prairie.

On this part of the apartments many fields are still engulfed by water.

“This water goes all the way to Vedder Mountain,” the mayor said as he surveyed a flooded area off Route 3 near Highway 1.

But he is encouraged that the water has fallen.

“Yesterday it was under water here,” said the mayor, who has lived in the community for 68 years.

Braun said that when the flooding began, his first thoughts were with the peasants of Sumas Prairie.

Now he’s worried that some of them – so overwhelmed by their losses and without insurance – will not be able to start over.

“There’s a dairy, they lost their entire herd of 150 cows,” the mayor said. “I met some blueberry people. They know their plants are dead.”

“There is anger on one side of heartache and grief and sorrow over the losses these people have suffered in our prairie.”

Near Barrowtown Pump Station, the mayor points to a wall of sandbags built by volunteers under the top of floods. He credits them for having fought an even greater catastrophe.

“If it were not for them … I do not know what would have happened because we (the City of Abbotsford crews) could not come here because it was all under water.”

With rain falling and several significant storms in the forecast, the mayor says the city is as clear as it can get.

“We have some capacity to take more water from the rain. I really believe we’re okay if Nooksack (the river) stays on its side of the border,” he said.

When the mayor was asked if he was angry that the U.S. government was not doing more to protect the Nooksack River from spilling its banks and pouring water into Sumas Prairie, the mayor said it was not time to point fingers. Still, he thinks it’s time for Washington State and the Capitol to go up so this does not happen again.

Continuing over Sumas Prairie, the mayor’s next stop is the part of the dike that had the largest quarry. Braun has flown over this area before, but this is the first time he is monitoring it from the ground and he is happy with the progress.

“I’m overjoyed by what I see here,” the mayor said.

“I just talked to the contractor who tells me they are six inches away from being in height (it is necessary).”

The mayor is clearly proud of his community for standing together during the flood, but he said it will take weeks before the water subsides. And they must first get through a series of more storms.

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