Sun. Dec 5th, 2021

Highway 1 through Fraser Valley will reopen at 2 p.m. today to the public, but authorities say it will be at a reduced speed.

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British Colombians are being urged to prepare for yet another series of rainstorms as Highway 1 through Fraser Valley reopens Thursday afternoon.

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Transport Minister Rob Fleming said geotechnical engineers have confirmed that Highway 1 through Fraser Valley will reopen to the public at 6 p.m.

However, he said there will be reduced speed limits and they recommend people not to travel if they do not have to. He warned that it may have to close again if the storms affect the highway.

Secretary of Public Safety Mike Farnworth said residents of BC should be prepared for “three major storms” to arrive, including one Thursday, another weekend and the third and largest on Tuesday.

“The time to prepare is now,” he said during a news conference Thursday afternoon. “I urge all British Colombians to be vigilant.”

He said it includes storm-proof homes and clearing of clutter and drains. He urged people not to travel on the highways during these storms, but said those who need to travel need to make sure their vehicle has water, blankets and food.

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Thousands of BC residents were forced from their homes and six people died after an atmospheric river last week caused massive floods and landslides.

Helicopters and planes are flying over the affected areas, helping assess the situation and deliver food, Farnworth said.

“It is rare that we have to respond to disasters,” Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne told a news conference. “We know these shifts are due to global climate change.”

She said that since the floods began, they have contacted local governments to hear their concerns and answer their questions.

She urged these communities to apply for the financial disaster relief program for things like infrastructure replacement and waste removal.

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Fleming said work is continuing on the Coquihalla Highway, which was badly damaged by the flood. About 20 places on that highway were damaged or washed away, including five bridges.

“We have never seen anything like it in BC,” he said, adding that more than 200 sites were affected in southern BC.

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said 57 blueberry growers were affected by the flood, with about 2,100 acres of land under water. Farmers also lost an estimated 4,000 tons of stored vegetables such as carrots and Brussels sprouts, while 100 percent of the flower bulb growers in Sumas were affected.

She added that they believe all fish on two fish farms in Fraser Valley have been lost, as well as a saffron farm, which has been “devastating” to the owners.

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Popham said she would not give a mortality on the animals out of empathy for the peasants, who are still in distress and mourning.

“They hurt a lot,” she said.

Wind and rain warnings have been issued for most of BC’s south coast on Thursday. On Friday, a postponement in the wet weather is expected, but then more heavy rain is expected both Saturday and Sunday and in the first half of next week.

A supply crew works a day after heavy rains flooded the southern inner city of Princeton, BC, on November 16th.
A supply crew works a day after heavy rains flooded the southern inner city of Princeton, BC, on November 16th. Photo by Artur Gajda / Reuters

Meanwhile, a guide to boiling water for the Sumas Prairie was upgraded to a no-use warning on Wednesday, while the RCMP reported that a sixth person was likely dead as a result of the mid-November rainstorm that devastated the southwest part of the province.

RCMP officers are investigating a report of a missing woman who was unable to leave a home on Highway 8 before being washed away last week. Four bodies have been found after a mudslide along Highway 99 near Lillooet, and a man is still missing at the scene.

NICOLA VALLEY, BC: Images showing damage in and around the Shackan First Nation Reserve in BC's Nicola Valley following the November 2021 storms and floods.
NICOLA VALLEY, BC: Images showing damage in and around the Shackan First Nation Reserve in BC’s Nicola Valley following the November 2021 storms and floods. Photo by Keith Fransson / Urban Systems / Shackan First Nation /PNG

Farnworth said even routine rainfall can cause already swollen rivers to rise to dangerous heights, and he urged residents to prepare for evacuation and keep an eye out for updates.

Fleming said the government was prepared to close some roads as a precautionary measure as model builders tried to predict where and when floods and mudslides could occur.

ticrawford@postmedia.com

—With files from David Carrigg

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