EDITORIAL – ‘Unprecedented’ is no longer the right word for floods, fires

(Image: Kent Simmonds, CFJC Today)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

THE WORD ‘UNPRECEDENTED’ is much used these days, especially when it comes to wildfires and floods.

In Alberta, Premier Daniella Smith calls the wildfire situation unprecedented. In B.C., we also hear the word frequently. Flooding in Cache Creek prompted Mayor John Ranta to describe the situation as unprecedented.

The word no longer fits. “Unprecedented” means such a thing has never happened before. Disastrous fires and flood are, sadly, becoming common place.

More than 24,000 Albertans have been evacuated due to wildfires in that province. But maybe Smith forgets the Fort MacMurray disaster of 2016, when 88,000 people were forced from their homes in a vast area between that province and Saskatchewan.

And while this year’s floods in Cache Creek were terrible, that community now experiences major flooding in more years than not. Flooding in 2015 was called the worst in more than 30 years as culverts became clogged, streets were damaged and homes flooded.

The flood of 2017 brought Premier Christy Clark to the scene promising provincial help. Ranta said then the town had never seen anything like the flooding that year and called on the province to do a study on how to mitigate it in future years.

But the very next year the Cache Creek stream breached its banks again, sending mud and debris through town, resulting in a state of emergency being declared.

It keeps happening, not only in Cache Creek, of course, but elsewhere. The obvious culprit is climate change. The provincial government has carried out extensive flood mapping to identify areas prone to flooding and flood damage but that doesn’t help unless a major investment in prevention is made.

Small communities certainly can’t do it on their own. Whether the answer is to use carbon taxes — as CFJC’s James Peters suggests — or some other source of funding, it has to be found.

Because this isn’t unprecedented. It is, to use another often-used phrase, the new normal.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a recipient of the Jack Webster Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. He has served as mayor of Kamloops, school board chair and TNRD director, and is a retired daily newspaper editor. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (9634 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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