By Bob Groeneveld
Wildfire watchers and others who pay attention to water that comes from the sky have been hoping for a wet June.
Motoring enthusiasts who are planning the British Invasion of Douglas Park this weekend, and the antique crowd who want to turn the clock back past 1932 for Model A Sunday probably aren’t hoping for more devastating wildfires in the north and interior of B.C.
But they’d just as lief that the June rains – while they would be greatly appreciated – would hold off until after the weekend.
May granted no dry favours to planners of events in those venues over the past couple of weeks. It seemed the only significant rains of the entire month fell on Douglas Park during the Root Beer Festival and on Fort Langley during the May Day Parade.
But if anyone was surprised that both events proved successful, despite the rain, then they haven’t paid attention to the area’s meteorological history… or the local people’s disdain for it.
While the province already seems about to dry up and blow away like so many grey cinders floating over a burning barrel, the standard has been quite the opposite. And sometimes the results hereabouts have proved that water can be as devastating as fire.
Those who do have an inkling of Langley’s history with too much water quickly point to the Great Flood of 1948, which famously ripped through the Fraser Valley, causing millions of dollars worth of damage… and those were millions of 1948 dollars, by the way.
And the communities along the river were smaller and sparser than today by orders of magnitude.
If this were 1948, today you’d be standing knee-deep or more in water, sandbagging for your neighbours’ lives in West Langley, Walnut Grove, Fort Langley, Glen Valley, and East Langley.
Similar scenes would be playing out from Chilliwack to Steveston.
The millions would be billions.
But the 1948 flood was neither rare nor unexpected.
There was the devastating flood of 1936 – the worst since 1894, which was so horrendous that it made the 1948 event seem like someone had overflowed their Mr. Turtle pool.
The 1894 floodwaters tore McMillan Island in half and folded it on itself into Brae Island (you wondered why that island off Fort Langley has two names?). And Bedford Channel, which had been the main channel of the Fraser River, became the barely glorified ditch it is today.
There were lots of other floods.
In 1946, only two years before the 1948 disaster, flooding was so extensive and damages so great that calls were put out to immediately improve the dikes… and in 1949, work began in earnest.
Indeed, the spring of 1941 was hailed as the first time in written history that Fraser hadn’t flooded.
Every year at this time, while the Interior wildfire watchers pray for water from the sky, local flood watchers keep a wary eye on the dikes.
And Langley revellers enjoy their parades and festivities, rain or shine.