VANCOUVER – Chief William Seymour of Cowichan Tribes of Vancouver Island has booked five hotel rooms for displaced families and will attend a funeral on Christmas Eve.
The tragedies that fell on the First Nation were replicated in much of British Columbia this holiday season after a strong storm struck the province on Thursday. Tens of thousands of people were without power.
But locals are coming together to make the most of a gloomy situation.
"We are a close-knit community. If we have the means to help, then we do it. Taking care of each other is the way we're getting along, "Seymour said in a telephone interview. "Everyone is praying for them to get hydro today. They would like to be home for Christmas.
Heavy rains and 100 km / h winds blew hundreds of trees, one of which struck and killed a 20-something woman Thursday morning. Then, at night, when 16 members of the community sat by candlelight, a candle fell, causing a fire in the house out of control. A falling tree cut into the living room of another house, which housed 12 people.
As for the rest of the community, "they have no idea what they're going to do on holidays," Seymour said.
"We are looking at families who need to find somewhere else to gather. They can not have their usual turkey dinners, and I do not know how they are working on it … They may be eating something cold by candlelight. "
While Major League First Nations band BC Seymour said community members are in power – just under half the 5,000 population, he estimates – it's opening its doors to people who need a hot shower, a stove or even filtered water. About 35 families are struggling to gain access to clean water.
But his biggest concern is the elderly with mobility problems, since they do not expect the power to work again until the new year. Seymour spent Monday morning phoning to make sure there was plenty of dry wood to burn on his wood stoves.
BC Hydro reported that there were about 20,000 British Colombians without power from Monday morning. A large number are on Vancouver Island, including the Cowichan Valley and Galiano Island, said Tanya Fish, a spokeswoman for the Crown corporation.
Repair teams work 24 hours a day in front of hundreds of power lines and felled trees. The Ministry of Transport has helped with the cleanup.
But the most affected areas will be powerless on Christmas Day, Fish noted.
"Clients in these areas have been really incredible. They are bringing coffee, hot chocolate and food to the teams to show their appreciation, "said Fish.
Meanwhile, on the island of Galiano, several residents told StarMetro that their cell phones were their "vital blood."
When energy came to an end on Thursday, resident Tobi Elliot said, the community naturally approached to help each other. She talked to StarMetro for 10 minutes on her way to delivering drinking water on Sunday, while her cell phone dropped to 1% of battery life and died.
Residents immediately "picked up their own chainsaws" and started clearing the trees from the roads, she explained. Because credit and debit machines were down, people shared money in exchange for essential items like gas. Others were delivering fuel jugs to those who needed gasoline. Clean water was also a commodity, as it was fully depleted on Saturday.
Then, late Sunday night, six boats broke loose from their moorings and began struggling violently in the water. A resident of Galiano, who lives in a houseboat in the harbor, spent the night loosening boats and driving away others.
"He and other people worked at night to ensure there was minimal damage to the boats. He saved three and three were stranded, "Elliot said Monday morning.
The city prepares an annual "spiritual feast" on Christmas Day that serves about 250 people. But the community hall is located at the southern end of the island, with no generators or heat. Elliot said dinner was almost canceled.
"Everyone's families are coming in today and we're all wondering how to prepare a turkey dinner when you do not have the energy," she said.
But organizers and volunteers have decided that "we need to do this this year, more than ever." They will be serving turkey sandwiches, cider, coffee, tea and biscuits – all made in a common propane kitchen.
While talking to StarMetro over the phone Monday morning, Elliot said power was starting to return around the city center. She was hopeful that she would have the chance to bake some red salmon, which is completely thawed after more than 72 hours without energy.
"I already accepted Christmas would be very different this year," she said. "We are potentially separated from services in cities. You learn to take care of yourself and your neighbors.
BC Hydro will continue to update its site with interrupt repairs.
Melanie Green is a Vancouver reporter who covers food culture and politics. Follow her on Twitter: @mdgmedia