This article was originally published in Maclean's Magazine on January 31, 2005
Long before it turned deadly, the storm that lashed B.C. last week was dubbed "Tropical Punch" for its warm weather and Pacific island origins. Its relentless rains undercut roads, flooded lowlands and washed away mountain snowpacks from Whistler to the North Shore. In the mountainside communities of North and West Vancouver, meandering creeks and rivers suddenly surged into torrents, and lawns squished underfoot like wet sponges. While many feared the rising waters, disaster struck Wednesday, high above the flood plain. At 3:18 a.m., a heavily forested hillside in the Mount Seymour area of North Vancouver gave way and smashed like a runaway train through the home of college instructors Michael and Eliza Kuttner. Wreckage was swept into homes and yards 80 m down the slope.
Neighbours and a rescue crew, ignoring the risk of further slides, pulled a badly injured Michael from the mud and debris. The body of Eliza was recovered 10 hours later, too late to save her. In a freakish twist, it turned out she had survived a similar mudslide when she was an 11-year-old in Hong Kong more than 30 years ago. The torrent also ripped into the home of Colette and Harvey Dykes, lifting their bed and smashing it into the room of their infant daughter, Jacintha, trapping them almost at ceiling level. Remarkably, they emerged with just a few scratches. "So many small miracles had to happen," Colette said of their survival. "We're so lucky."
Rain played havoc throughout B.C., putting many communities on flood alert and closing major highways and interior ski trails because of an extreme risk of avalanches. The province issued a state of emergency as another four days of rain was on the way.
Maclean's January 31, 2005