On this day in 1948*, the town of Agassiz’s Victoria Day dance was interrupted by news that the Fraser River
was about to flood. Men, young and old, quietly left the dance to build up the sandbag dyke along the river and begin what would inevitably be a lost battle to keep the water back and protect their homes, farms and businesses. A few days later, children waded through waist deep water on the school grounds, men rowed boats down the main street of town, and hundreds of dairy cows choked the road west of town as farmers herded them to higher ground, murky water licking at their heals.
Tom, the main character of my new chapter book, Flood Warning, wishes he could join his father and the other men fighting the flood. He’s sure his favorite radio hero, the Lone Ranger, would do no less. At the very least, the Lone Ranger on his firy horse, Silver, would escort the evacuation train safely out of town. But Tom has to go to school, and when school is dismissed early, he has to stay home and help his mom around the house. Until the flood comes to him, and Tom must become a real-life hero and help save his family’s dairy cows. (Info on book giveaway at bottom of post.)
The story, while fiction, is based on what really happened during the 1948 flood. Agassiz was the first town to be evacuated (read Flood Warning for the unusual role played by the town cemetery), but communities all along the Fraser Valley were affected. In total, 30,000 civilians (local farmers, townspeople, and volunteers from other areas) sprang into action to fight the flood, rescue stranded people and animals, and bring in supplies. Sixteen thousand people (including 3,800 children) were forced to flee, and hundreds of animals were also removed to safety (750 cows were evacuated in Agassiz alone). Roads (including the Trans Canada Highway) and railways were swamped, people who remained in the flooded areas were cut off from the rest of the world, and even the city of Vancouver was isolated from the rest of the country except by plane.
When the water finally began to recede two weeks later, it left devastation in its wake. Orchards and field crops were destroyed, debris was everywhere, floor boards of houses, cupboards, stairs, etc. were warped and rotting, carpets were ruined, walls stained, water-soaked furniture falling apart, and dark stagnant water and mud remained stuck in low areas. Yet, throughout the ordeal, there was a sense of camaraderie and mutual support, and people’s spirits remained high.
For more information on the Fraser River flood, Nature’s Fury, a first-hand account by newspaper correspondents and photographers who witnessed the flood, is available to download from the city of Chilliwack’s website.
Check out Flood Warning for a child’s eye view.
I’m giving away a signed copy of Flood Warning along with a bookmark, special button, and a DVD that includes episodes of the 1950s Lone Ranger TV show. Add a comment here, or “Like” my Facebook page to be entered in the draw. (Draw deadline: June 15, 2012.)
Of course, you can also ask for the book at your local bookstore, or order it through Amazon.com, Amazon.ca and other online sources.
Flood Warning is part of the Orca Echoes series for grades 1-3 and is illustrated by Leanne Franson (Leanne also illustrated my previous chapter book, Mystery of the Missing Luck, and I love her work).
* Note: Today is Victoria Day here in Canada, and it was on Victoria Day in 1948 that the flood warning began, however, in 1948 Victoria Day fell on May 24th.