3rd consecutive storm drenches southwest B.C. as evacuation orders remain in place

December 1, 2021
3rd consecutive storm drenches southwest B.C. as evacuation orders remain in place
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THE LATEST:

  • The province is preparing for another day of heavy rains, as the last of three major storm systems to hit southwest B.C. is expected to ease off Wednesday evening.

  • Up to 100 millimetres of rain is expected in the flood-battered Fraser Valley, with a snowfall advisory also in place for parts of central B.C.

  • Highway 99 between Lillooet and Pemberton was closed on Tuesday due to the storms, with many highways under travel advisory in the province. For a full list of closures, see here.

  • Evacuation orders remain in effect for properties near waterways in the Fraser Valley, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, and the Sea to Sky region. For more on evacuation alerts and orders, see here.

  • A flood watch is in place for the Coquihalla, Sumas, Tulameen, Similkameen, Coldwater, Lower Nicola and Fraser rivers, as well as much of Vancouver Island and the Central Coast. For all flood warnings and advisories, see here.

The last of three major storms is pounding southwest B.C. with heavy rain as flood-ravaged communities brace for potential evacuations and damage.

Flood-soaked regions like the Fraser Valley and the Nicola Valley east of Vancouver may receive up to 100 millimetres of rain, while snow is also expected at higher elevations.

The impact from the rain is expected to be worse due to extensive damage from the two previous storms. The first, which struck the province from Nov. 15 to 17, led to historic rainfall records being broken, and another over the weekend led to renewed evacuation orders and highway closures.

Evacuation orders remain in place for hundreds of properties in southwest B.C. The current storm system affecting the province hit the Central Coast first before travelling south, leading to more evacuation orders in areas north of the Fraser Valley region and Metro Vancouver.

This includes the communities  of Hope, Mission, and Hatzic in the eastern Fraser Valley. Some residents of Maple Ridge, just east of Vancouver, had warnings delivered to them due to potential floods.

Hundreds of residents also remain away from their homes in B.C.’s Interior, including in Princeton and Merritt.

Nearly all of the province is at a high or extreme risk of avalanche, with the greatest dangers in places like the Sea to Sky region, north of Vancouver, the northwest coast and the northern Rockies.

Up to 150 millimetres of rainfall is forecast for parts of Vancouver Island on Wednesday, and nearly the entire Island is under a flood watch.

A flood watch is also in effect for the Fraser, Tulameen, Coldwater, Similkameen, Coquihalla and Sumas rivers. A flood warning means river levels have exceeded or will exceed their banks, and nearby areas will flood as a result. A flood watch means river levels are rising and may spill their banks.

A restoration company vehicle sits in a flooded field after rainstorms in Abbotsford, in the Fraser Valley southeast of Vancouver. Areas up the valley, such as Hope and Mission, have also seen major flood events leading to evacuation orders (Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters)

Highway closures and choked supply chain

On Tuesday, Highway 99 between Pemberton and Lillooet was closed until further notice due to weather conditions. The stretch saw a mudslide that left four people dead and one missing.

Numerous other highways remain closed or under travel advisory due to the impact of previous floods and mudslides. 

The stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) between Abbotsford and Chilliwack, crucial for connecting Metro Vancouver and the rest of the province, remains closed.

There is also a travel advisory for Highway 20 in the Bella Coola Valley area on the Central Coast.

Though Highway 3 between Hope and Princeton has been reopened, allowing for commercial vehicles and other essential travel, the storm has choked the province’s supply chain.

Dave Earle, president of the B.C. Trucking Association, said Tuesday it is taking truckers “more than double the time” to get goods from one point to another in the province.

Tuesday also saw the announcement of a potential strike by container truck drivers serving the Port of Vancouver, and continuing impacts on railway lines.

A flooded semi-truck is pictured near sandbags in Abbotsford. Supply chain issues stemming from the floods continue to affect British Columbians, with food deliveries delayed and fuel rationing in place. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Canadian National said on Monday that it had stopped some of its service along the southern B.C. freight corridor because the rain caused increased debris, washouts and landslides.

CN diverted some rail traffic to the Port of Prince Rupert, but both northbound and eastbound traffic to and from Vancouver were still affected.

Fuel rationing is also set to remain in place in B.C. until at least Dec. 14.

A house is pictured surrounded by sandbags to prevent floodwater in the Sumas Prairie flood zone in Abbotsford. Numerous volunteers have banded together to help those in the community affected by floods. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Community spirit in Abbotsford

In the city of Abbotsford, southeast of Vancouver, which has been particularly hard hit by flooding, numerous volunteers were using Facebook groups to coordinate and help those in need.

Kulwant Gill, a volunteer who spent her lunch break filling sandbags at the city’s Albert Dyck Park, said many residents were “trying to do their part” as human beings during the natural disaster.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said Tuesday that flood modelling showed water levels were stabilizing, and said he was “confident” the city had done all it could to prepare for the last weather event this week.



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