British Columbia government officials say that while goods and services are once again moving after supply chains were severed due to extreme flooding, there is potential that incoming bad weather could derail progress.
The updates were provided in a press event Monday morning, one week after relentless rain caused rivers in the southern part of the province to breach their banks. This resulted in mudslides, washed out highways, and mass evacuations in the Fraser Valley, Merritt and Princeton.
In the wake of criticism that the province did not do enough to warn people about the extreme weather event, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the province will be working with partner agencies in the coming days to keep people informed. Heavy rain is in the forecast for the Fraser Valley Wednesday through Friday.
According to CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe, the rain coming this week to the province’s southern coast will last longer than the rain event that caused chaos last week. The affected area could see up to 100 millimetres by the weekend.
Environment Canada also issued a snowfall alert for the Fraser Valley Monday and a series of warnings and special weather statements for the northern half of the province, primarily for dangerously strong winds and snowfall.
Sections of highway reopening
The alerts come the same day sections of Highway 1 opened in Abbotsford.
According to the Ministry of Transportation, the highway is now open between Highway 1 East to Cole Road to provide emergency access to agricultural operations in the area.
Getting corridors open to the Lower Mainland is a number one priority, said transportation minister Rob Fleming Monday morning, noting that progress has already been made with the opening of Highway 1 east of Chilliwack and Highway 99 north of Pemberton.
Fleming said the Canadian Pacific Railway is also “cautiously optimistic” it will be able to restore service in affected areas by Tuesday.
“Essential goods and services are moving again,” said Fleming.
But the minister noted there is a lot of work ahead, with no timeline in sight for the permanent restoration of Highway 5 that Fleming says could take many months.
Province in state of emergency since Nov. 17
The B.C. government declared a state of emergency on Nov. 17 after last week’s weather caused widespread damage in the southern part of the province. The Canadian Armed Forces have been sent in to assist with flood recovery.
Countless volunteers have also worked around the clock to rescue people, pets and livestock.
Farnworth announced Friday that members of the general public in affected areas will be limited to 30 litres of gas per visit until Dec. 1 to ensure essential vehicles have enough fuel for recovery work.
Federal Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough says residents displaced or left unemployed due to the flooding should apply for employment insurance immediately, even if they normally wouldn’t qualify.
On Monday, Farnworth said the province has asked the federal government to waive the one-week waiting period usually in place before people can apply for employment insurance benefits.