Skip to content

Merritt evacuee thankful for support from Kelowna

Senior expects to return to social housing residence Thursday
A collapsed section of bridge destroyed by severe flooding is seen in Merritt, B.C., in an aerial view from a Canadian Forces reconnaissance flight on Monday, November 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

John Simms had 15 minutes to get out of town when the Coldwater River began to overflow its banks in the community of Merritt on Nov. 14.

Living at BC Housing units set up at the Desert Inn Merritt, Sims left behind much of his belongings, his trailer and two vehicles, bound for Kamloops.

“I grabbed my wallet, the clothes I was wearing and left,” Sims recounted.

From there he and several others were bused to Kelowna where they have been holed up at the Ramada Lodge since last week, having been alerted Tuesday they can return to Merritt on Thursday (Nov. 25).

He says in his Ramada group are residents from Merritt, Princeton and as far away as Agassiz.

After checking in at the Emergency Response Centre in Kelowna, Sims was given a $50 voucher to get some basic supplies - pairs of underwear, toothpaste, shaving stuff and toilet paper.

He has been handwashing his clothes each night and letting them dry overnight above his room heater.

“Bit old fashioned but it has worked good,” he said, as he laughed about his laundry washing technique.

Sims said he has fared better than many of his community, because the hotel along with his trailer and vehicles all sit on higher land that avoided flooding.

He knows of one person who lived by the river who lost the trailer he lived in, the Quonset hut that housed his mechanical business and all his tools.

“He told me that lost about $60,000 instantly from that. I felt sorry for him. I am told it will be about three years by the time we get back and everyone is settled in. The flooding has affected a lot of people.”

Sims is a 75- year-old retired tow truck driver who has lived in Merritt for 20 years after moving to the Interior community from the Lower Mainland.

He suffered three strokes last summer at the age of 75, his post-health status from those events qualifying him to live in a new BC Housing project now under construction in Merritt and his current social housing temporary residence.

“I have a fifth wheel parked on a friend’s property but there is no electricity so pretty hard to live in that during the winter,” Sims said.

He echoed the sentiments of many others when placing the damage of the flooding in some sort of historical context.

“I have never seen flooding like this before in my time in Merritt,” he said.

Sims has kind words for those who have helped him and others during the last two weeks, from the emergency response centre to the staff at the Ramada Hotel and Conference Centre, Pharmasave pharmacists who cut through the paperwork to update his prescription and Central Interior Credit Union helping him to access his bank account.

“Kelowna has just been fantastic helping with this and that,” he said of what will be a 10-day stay in the city.

“Every time one of us has a question, there is someone available with the answer.”

READ MORE: Financial aid coming to flood evacuees as B.C. officials warn of rainy, ‘challenging’ days ahead

READ MORE: Some B.C. evacuees to be allowed to return home, key railway corridor to reopen

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Barry Gerding

About the Author: Barry Gerding

Senior regional reporter for Black Press Media in the Okanagan. I have been a journalist in the B.C. community newspaper field for 37 years...
Read more