Abbotsford, B.C. –
The Sumas Prairie area of Abbotsford experienced the most severe and prolonged impact of devastating flooding following last month’s atmospheric river, and now that evacuation orders in the area are being lifted in phases, property owners are getting a look at the full extent of the damage.
The Mostertman family’s basement is still full of water, but the knee-high level in the main floor of their home has receded to reveal considerable damage to virtually eveyrthing, including precious mementos, and neck-deep floodwaters that inundated their family business have left utter devastation.
“It almost looks like something from a war zone,” said Caroline Mostertman, as she took CTV News on a tour of the muddy property that once housed a rustic chic tasting room for the Ripples Estate Winery, an idyllic antique barn-themed wedding venue, a plant nursery and a distillery.
The shattered Christmas decorations, filthy stemware, waterlogged antiques and mouldering period costumes are just some of the losses. Bottle after bottle of ruined wine and spirits will almost all be destroyed, and the family expects the blueberry bushes and grape vines are also lost.
“It’s not just the physical damage, but the future damage, because we have no immediate inventory (to sell) and with our 20 acres of blueberry fields that’ve been underwater for two weeks, those plants won’t have survived,” said Mosterman. “The grapes and blueberries, we have to replant and it’ll be five years before we get anything out of them.”
The Christmas season, which accounts for a third of their revenue, is a write-off. Dozens of full-time employees have been laid off, and the family is now relying on a handful of remaining staff, friends and volunteers to help them clean up.
ENTIRE FAMILY IMPACTED BY FLOODING AND SLIDES
Caroline and Paul co-own the winery and venue, but their daughter’s distillery – New Wave Distilling – is also on the property, and her equipment was badly damaged.
“Being a modernized still, everything was electronic, but our entire control panel got sunk underwater and there’s still water (from the flood) in the still,” said Kelsey Mostertman. “All the tanks that’d been filled with alcohol lifted up and the nozzles broke and any alcohol we had in here as lost … Due to pandemic supply issues, we had to give up most of our glass bottle tops and switch to cork and all those bottles are spoiled.”
Kelsey’s brother was caught up in a slide that pushed his car into a river, while Paul and one of the family’s longtime staffers were trapped by the landslide near Hope. Caroline was by herself when the waters started rising over the property they’ve owned and farmed for 40 years.
In a desperate move, she threw a wire mesh over Paul’s prized koi fish – some of which were 20 years old and two feet long – but they swam away in the metres-deep floodwaters. Hard-earned equipment and products became debris and detritus still strewn around acreages and the sides of the roads, where many of the ditches remain full of water.
A LONG RECOVERY AHEAD
The winery, like many of the farms and small businesses on the Sumas Prarie, is ineligible for the current flood relief programs offered by the provincial government and was uninsured. Caroline Mostertman is optimistic there will be help coming in some form, but in the meantime, the family is working round-the-clock to do what they can to pull themselves back up.
“Crying doesn’t help,” said Mostertman. “We’ll be back next summer. I have a deadline because May is my first wedding. I will have this ready by then.”