The Ucluelet Co-op’s fresh produce aisle is nearly bare and a note has been posted informing customers that the shelves will not be restocked until Hwy. 4 reopens. (Andrew Bailey photo)

The Ucluelet Co-op’s fresh produce aisle is nearly bare and a note has been posted informing customers that the shelves will not be restocked until Hwy. 4 reopens. (Andrew Bailey photo)

UPDATED: Mayors call for ‘calmness’ as highway rockslide cuts Tofino, Ucluelet off from supplies

Ministry of transportation expects to open road for “essential travel only” from noon-8 p.m. Friday.

UPDATE: The road was closed at 8 a.m. Friday and will be reopened from 8 a.m. to noon Jan 25 limited to passenger vehicles and light pickups only. Screening at Tofino/Ucluelet junction and Sproat Lake. The plan is to reopen Highway 4 to commercial vehicles in the afternoon of Jan 26. Next update Saturday at 10 a.m. — Drive BC

***

Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel is encouraging his community to remain calm during a road closure that’s cut the town off from supplies since Wednesday night.

“I’m 100 per cent comfortable that we will navigate through this. It’s going to take some calmness…We just need to work together and be a little bit patient while we overcome this hardship over the next 24 hours,” Noel told the Westerly News Friday morning. “I think that we’d have a big thing to worry about if we didn’t have hydro electricity right now, plus this going on. That would be a double-whammy. There’s no need for alarm other than the inconvenience of missing appointments and scheduled goods and services going back and forth.”

The only highway connecting the West Coast to the rest of Vancouver Island was shut down in both directions by a rockfall during the early morning hours of Jan. 23.

B.C.’s ministry of transportation opened the road to “essential travel only” from noon to 8 p.m. on Friday, but only passenger vehicles and light pickup trucks would be let through as crews work to install a bridge in the affected area.

READ MORE: Tofino-Ucluelet highway will be open for ‘essential travel only’ on Friday

That means food trucks are shut out of the community and the Ucluelet Co-op’s fresh produce aisle was nearly bare on Friday afternoon, with a note posted advising customers that the shelves would not be restocked until the road reopens.

Noel acknolwedged that he is “100 per cent concerned” about the lack of goods coming into town, but added the district office has been in touch with the Co-op and other service providers and is assessing the situation.

“Today, we’re not out of groceries. Tomorrow, we’re not out of groceries. We’re trying to get an understanding of how much fuel there is…Those kinds of things are being asked and we’re just trying to monitor it,” he said. “The ministry is working their best to get those trucks and traffic going and, I think, as the day unfolds, obviously things like ‘How do we get heavy trucks, fish trucks, dairy trucks and Amazon trucks over that pass,’ will come up and that will be something we’ll be able to answer a bit better later on in the day or early [tomorrow] morning…We have a group of professionals working on the problem trying to come up with a solution to allow us the same access we had prior to the incident.”

He noted some have suggested bringing in goods by barge while the highway is closed, but added that might not be possible this time of year.

“Unfortunately, it’s January and barges and car ferries, as much as you may want to turn one on, it doesn’t mean that one can come around through Eagle Passage and into the mouth of Ucluelet here. That is all weather dependent…If you wanted a barge today, is it going to be able to get through there with the weather forecast at 35 knots with three to four metre seas? We’re still held hostage,” he said.

“Personally, I don’t think we’re going to need a barge. They’re working aggressively to get the temporary [bridge] structure in and that’s the focus that the ministry is working on. We will definitely be in the background talking about those barge things and stuff. The preference is, they put a bridge in there and we can gain access and get back to our merry lives.”

READ MORE: Ucluelet mayor says highway closure shows need for car ferry between Port Alberni and West Coast

He added the ministry’s announcement on Friday morning that a bridge will be installed brought him “comfort” and he commended the ministry for keeping the community updated throughout the closure.

“The communication with the ministry is excellent when there’s a major upset, like we’re having here and the last few that we’ve had. They try to keep us informed in detail with what’s going on and what they’re doing because we all want to know,” he said.

READ MORE: Highway closures hit travellers heading in and out of Tofino and Ucluelet

Tofino mayor Josie Osborne expressed similar sentiment, telling the Westerly that the ministry and its contractors “are doing their very best in an incredibly challenging situation.”

She said the current focus is to get the highway reopened to single lane traffic as soon as possible and keeping residents informed, which she acknowledged has been difficult due to the uncertainty of how long it will take for the road to reopen.

“For we, the public, our patience and understanding are really important right now and, after the incident is over, we will take the time to debrief and learn so we can do even better if there is a next time,” she said.

She added the closure shows the need for West Coasters to be prepared.

READ MORE: Location an issue for food growing project in Tofino

WATCH: Frequent closures on only highway in and out of Tofino-Ucluelet expected to continue until Summer of 2020

“This closure is again another important reminder about personal and family preparedness, and this goes beyond physical preparedness but also thinking about the emotional toll that events like this can take on us, our friends and our neighbours,” she said.

“Empathy for those who feel anxiety, or whose livelihoods are being impacted is important. It’s a time to be understanding and reach out to see how we can help others cope, keep things in perspective, and to try to step back from the temptation to criticize or place blame in the heat of the moment. As with other incidents, I am proud of the way West Coasters are demonstrating their resilience, looking out for each other, and helping to take care of those folks who have been “stuck” here in paradise.”

READ MORE: VIDEO: Tofino hosts fourth annual Emergency Preparedness Fair

The rockfall that closed the highway was brought on by a mishap during scheduled blasting work being done as part of the provincial and federal government’s ongoing $38 million Kennedy Hill Safety Improvement project.

The project is expected to be complete in the summer of 2020.

“Overall, I remain very satisfied with the way the construction project has unfolded, despite having several unanticipated closures like this one. The Ministry’s communication with local government and agencies like Island Health has been very good, and communication to the public has greatly improved over the first unanticipated closure, for example with flaggers being placed at Sproat Lake and the Junction a lot sooner than in the past,” Osborne said. “There is always room for improvement, and no doubt we will have feedback for the Ministry after the event.”



andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

highway chaostravel

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ron Sivorot, business director at Kennametal’s Langford site, the Greater Victoria facility that made a component being used on NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. (Jake Romphf, Black Press Media)
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover using piece made at Kennametal’s Langford site

The Greater Victoria plant’s tooth blank is helping the rover’s drill collect rock cores

June Saxe, 2, enjoys the sunny shoreline at Whiffin Spit with her dad on March 5. The family had come out from Victoria for a day in the sunshine. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Warm weather brings Sooke’s Whiffin Spit to life

Visitors, locals enjoy warm weather at coastal viewpoint

Funding requests for the 2021 budget year, submitted by the Administration and Finance Committee, was approved by Langford council at the Feb. 16 meeting. (Black Press Media file photo)
Food awareness, seniors among Langford’s approved 2021 funding requests

New and returning community organizations to receive financial boost

Underground utility installations are underway on Latoria Boulevard at Latoria Road near Royal Bay Secondary and on Metchosin Road south of Latoria Boulevard. (City of Colwood image)
Road work hinders Colwood drivers in Royal Bay

Underground utility installation could run most of March

A rockfall closed Finlayson Arm Road and West Shore Parkway on Friday (March 5) afternoon. (Twitter/BC Transportation)
UPDATED: Malahat reopens following rockfall

Section of Trans-Canada Highway was scheduled for intermittent closures today for rock scaling work

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Free Reformed Church is seen as people attend service, in Chilliwack, B.C., on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. Lawyers for the British Columbia government and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms are back in B.C. Supreme Court today, squaring off over the legality of COVID-19 rules that prohibit in-person religious services. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. top doctor has power to restrict access to a place during health hazard: lawyer

Under B.C.’s Public Health Act, Jacqueline Hughes says, Henry can restrict or prevent entry to a place

Most Read