British Columbians brace for more extreme weather, possible flooding on north coast

November 22, 2021
British Columbians brace for more extreme weather, possible flooding on north coast

After an atmospheric river system caused extreme flooding and mudslides in southern British Columbia last week, government agencies are warning people to brace themselves for extreme weather that could cause chaos in other parts of the province Monday.

Environment and Climate Change Canada has issued a series of warnings and special weather statements for the northern half of the province, primarily for dangerously strong winds and snowfall.

There are also snowfall warnings for the Fraser Valley and Fraser Canyon, which has already been pummeled by relentless rain and impacted by highway closures.

An atmospheric river system that slammed the north coast over the weekend, bringing heavy rainfall, has also triggered a flood watch for Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert, Kitimat, Hartley Bay, Kemano and surrounding areas.

A flood watch means river levels are rising and may exceed their banks and flood adjacent areas. A flood warning means that’s already happened. 

A collapsed portion of the Coquihalla Highway, near Juliet Creek, is seen on Nov. 17, 2021, after torrential rain caused severe damage to major highways across southern B.C. (B.C. Ministry of Transportation/Twitter)

The atmospheric river hit the region Saturday. According to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, that area could see up to 300 millimetres of rain by Monday night, with the highest amounts hitting the outer coast between Prince Rupert and Ocean Falls.

Residents asked to prepare for stormy weather

Snowmelt at low-to-mid elevations is expected to add to runoff and the ministry is advising people to stay clear of fast-flowing rivers and potentially unstable riverbanks.

The provincial government asked residents in these areas to prepare for stormy weather by clearing gutters on homes, checking nearby storm drains for blockages, storing valuables in water-tight containers in case of flooding and having an emergency plan.

A full list of recommendations from the province is listed here.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration explains that an atmospheric river can bring moisture from the tropics near Hawaii over North America’s West Coast. (NOAA)

As engineers and road crews tackle the challenges of rebuilding sections of the Coquihalla Highway swept away by flood waters, Environment Canada has issued a snowfall warning for the exact stretch of affected road from Hope to Merritt.

Heavy snow is expected from Monday afternoon and could reach 30 centimetres by Tuesday afternoon when it is expected to lighten up.

WATCH | At least 4 people have died in B.C. mudslide:

Death toll from B.C. mudslide climbs to 4 as cleanup efforts continue

The bodies of four people have been recovered following a mudslide on Highway 99 near Lillooet, B.C. Meanwhile, cleanup efforts continue in areas hit hard by flooding — with members of the Canadian Armed Forces dispatched to assist. 2:01

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said extra crews and equipment are on standby, ready to respond as necessary with potential impacts from severe weather.

Road conditions can be checked at DriveBC.

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