Wed. Jan 26th, 2022

Saturday, November 27, 2021, at 20.59 – Some motorways must be proactively closed on Saturdays, as up to 120 mm of rain is expected.

THE LATEST:

  • Rain has begun to fall over southern parts of British Columbia on Saturday, threatening communities already ravaged by floods and mudslides. Up to 120 millimeters of rain is expected.
  • The River Forecast Center has issued a flood watch for the South Coast, Lower Fraser Valley and the southern regions of Vancouver Island.
  • Evacuation warnings were issued Saturday for some low-lying properties north of Pemberton and in the southern interior of BC. Find more information here.
  • Three highways will be proactively closed Saturday afternoon as the province prepares for more damage from storms. For all roadblocks see here.
  • More than 2,000 residents of Merritt are under boiling water after being allowed to return home after the evacuation of the city due to flooding.
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that a new committee will be formed to steer the province’s recovery from the flood disaster.
  • The provincial and federal governments will match all donations to the Red Cross’ flood fundraising campaign in one month, tripling the donation amount for each donation.
  • Visit the River Forecast Center for a list of updated flood warnings.

Societies in the southern BC. preparing for an atmospheric river hitting Saturday, though federal plans to help the province recover from devastating floods and mudslides were announced.

The heaviest rain is set to fall Saturday night, according to Environment Canada, which issued a rain warning on Friday and warned of another storm front arriving Tuesday.

More than 100 millimeters of rain will hit the mountains of southern BC, with 80 millimeters of rain falling on Fraser Valley, an area southeast of Metro Vancouver devastated by floods two weeks ago.

BC flood / Ben Nelms / CBC
A mailbox is surrounded by floods in the Sumas Prairie flood zone in Abbotsford, BC The southern part of BC is preparing for more storms to hit the region on Saturday, though communities continue to recover after record-breaking rainfall two weeks ago. (Ben Nelms / CBC)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the Abbotsford community in the valley on Friday, where he saw flooding first-hand and spoke with local officials, first aiders and First Nations leaders.

Hundreds remain away from their homes because of the disaster, with supply chains still limited, and communities still dealing with standing water.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said the estimated 220 millimeters of rain falling over the city over the next five days would be a “situation they had never faced before.”

Trudeau said he saw “amazing” strength and resilience from first-aiders in Abbotsford, and praised the community’s efforts in the wake of the floods.

Later Friday, he announced a committee to shape the province’s recovery from the widespread flooding at a joint media conference with BC Premier John Horgan.

“It will not be enough for us to be there now and in the coming weeks – we will be there for each other in the coming months and years to come,” he said.

RED CROSS: British Columbia Floods and Extreme Weather Appeal

At the press conference, Horgan and Trudeau announced that the federal and provincial governments would match donations to the Canadian Red Cross’ flood fundraising campaign for 30 days from Friday.

This means that each donated $ 1 will be tripled to $ 3, with governments also retroactively matching each donation since the campaign started on November 17th.

HIGHWAYS SHOULD BE PROACTIVELY CLOSED

BC Transport Minister Rob Fleming said some highways would be closed on Saturday as further damage from storms is expected.

The three affected motorways will be:

  • Highway 3 between Hope and Princeton.
  • Highway 99 between Pemberton and Lillooet.
  • Highway 1 in Fraser Canyon.

Highway 1 and Highway 3 closed at 14.00 PT, and Highway 99 closed at. 16.00 PT.

Reopening times will vary depending on weather conditions, the province said.

BC Transport Minister Rob Fleming urged residents not to travel unless they needed it over the weekend, and he said large-scale reconstruction operations will take extreme weather events into account.

“Consider limiting your trip because we have significant weather events,” he said Friday. “We need to have our highways work for freight transport and we need to be safe.”

BC Transport Secretary Rob Fleming / MikeMcArthur / CBC
BC Transport Secretary Rob Fleming asked residents of the province not to travel this weekend unless necessary, with further storms on the horizon. (Mike McArthur / CBC)

MERRITT EVACUATES TO GET BACK IN PHASE

In the community of Merritt in the interior of the province, some residents are allowed to return to see how floods have affected their homes, but others stay away due to damage to power lines.

Re-entry to the city with 7,500 takes place in stages after it was completely evacuated after floods on 15 November. Currently, residents in phases 1 to 3 of the plan can return.

Greg Lowis, an emergency public information officer at Merritt, said there has been “significant” damage to the city’s infrastructure, including a collapsed bridge and damage to dikes.

More than 2,000 of the evacuated evacuees are under boiled water advice as sewer systems in the city continue to be damaged by the floods.

Donna Ray’s home was placed in Phase 4 of the re-entry plan, meaning there is no estimated time for when she can return. She described her future as “uncertain” as short-term forecasts threaten to bring more damage to the city.

“The looming threat … is not going to affect me wherever I am because my house is already destroyed,” she said. “It can do no more harm.”

HORGAN RETURNS DIKE MANAGEMENT MODEL ERROR

The province says supply chains are returning to normal after significant damage to the road network.

Federal support for clearing the backlog in the port of Vancouver, as well as fuel shipments from the United States, are said to have helped alleviate the shortage.

Horgan said at the news conference last Friday that neighboring Washington was also helping with water management, with particular attention to the Nooksack River and whether it will flow over its dikes.

He also admitted that the digestive system in the province, which is largely left to the local municipalities, was deficient and needed to be changed.

“[The diking system] was a bad call, “he said.” There must be more than the local dollars at stake if we are to protect communities going forward. “

He said he would work with the prime minister to get provincial and federal funding and support communities with their flood plans.

BC  Flood / City of Abbotsford
Crews repairing the Sumas Dike in Abbotsford, BC Prime Minister John Horgan says the current digestive system in the province, which is largely left to municipalities, is deficient. (City of Abbotsford)

READ MORE:

  • The flood disaster has caused an unprecedented strain on shelters across the province, with a Abbotsford coordinator saying they saw a record number of beds occupied.
  • The BC Agriculture Council said some farms have lost acres of crops due to the floods and that it could take years for them to recover.
  • One of these farms was run by Avtar Dhillon, who lost his precious saffron crop due to the floods in the Sumas Prairie region of Abbotsford. He says he has not lost hope and wants to grow the crop in BC again.

The story was originally published for CBC News on November 27, 2021.

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