Evacuees have praise for Prince George as they board the bus for home

Call Jessie Pruden a model evacuee.

While most would regard a two-week stay in the gym at College of New Caledonia as a hardship, three meals a day and showers were good enough to keep the 73-year-old grandmother happy.

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"We've been treated real awesome," Pruden said with a smile as she waited for the bus to roll up and take her back to 100 Mile House. "And I appreciate everything what they have done for us."

Even the fact that she slept on a cot was not enough to knock her spirits down.

"Yeah, they call it a jailhouse bed," Pruden joked. "The security people played "Jail House Rock" by Elvis Presley."

As luck would have it, her stay also acted as a reunion as Pruden was able to catch up with relatives she hadn't met since she ran away from home, the Anaheim Lake reserve west of Williams Lake, at age 18.

"Since the first day I got here, we'd get up in the morning, I would be sitting outside and 'are you Jessie?'" Pruden said.

If there was one disappointment with the whole affair it was that she was unable to attend an elder's gathering in Campbell River.

Over all, she just put the time in Prince George down to an "experience" and another tale to tell her grandson.

Nonetheless, Pruden said she was glad to go home - one half of a duplex in the community of about 1,900 people 328 kilometres south of Prince George.

"We have a lot of work to do when we get home though," she said. "Cleaning."

Many of the 35 others who boarded one of two Northern Health buses parked in front of CNC had accolades for how it went.

"Extraordinary planning," said one man who declined to give his name.

For James Leboe, it was a two week vacation. Recently evicted from his apartment, Leboe had been living in a tent prior to the evacuation order being invoked and he's unsure if he will have a job to go back to once he's returned.

He and his dog stayed at CNC for one night before moving in with an uncle, making his time here an improvement over the situation he's been confronting in 100 Mile House.

Like Pruden, Leboe has been rolling with the punches.

"I'm so used to losing everything as it is," he said with a chuckle.

Although visibly stressed by all that's happened, Randy Dodd also happy with the treatment he received. He spent the first four days at CNC before he was moved to the Legion "which is an awesome venue with awesome meals."

"Just the generosity of the city is...I've had perfect strangers come up and give me $20 just for smokes," Dodd said.

However, Dodd, who gets around with the help of a cane, said his cellphone and some other belongings were stolen, he's been unable to contact his father, who lives in Canim Lake, his dog has been in a kennel and he's been separated from his girlfriend, who has been in Kamloops the whole time.

"This thing has probably affected me more than anyone else, psychologically, mentally," Dodd said. "I've had two nervous breakdowns and not being allowed to go home, I've had a hard time coping with it."

Thirteen pets were also taken along for the ride that normally would take 5 1/2 hours but instead was to take seven because Highway 97 remained blocked to southbound traffic, forcing the entourage to take Highway 5 instead.

As of Sunday, 9,900 evacuess had registered in Prince George, with only a small percentage staying in the dormitory settings provided at CNC and UNBC. It was not clear how many have since left the city. Evacuation orders for 100 Mile House and the neighbouring area, including 108 Mile and Lac la Hache, were lifted Saturday afternoon.

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