Intense weather systems head for B.C. as province reopens, repairs major road routes
VICTORIA — Rainstorms of increasing intensity are forecast to hit British Columbia over the coming days, prompting warnings for people to be prepared to evacuate floodwaters if necessary.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says the biggest rainstorm is expected to arrive on Tuesday and people living in areas prone to flooding should be on alert.
He urges people to have food, water, blankets, and flashlights ready in case of rising waters in their communities.
Floods and mudslides last week damaged and closed some major provincial highways, forced the evacuation of the City of Merritt and caused historic flood damage in the Abbotsford-Chilliwack area of the Fraser Valley, devastating homes, farms and livestock.
Six people have been confirmed killed or missing in the floods and slides.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is to be in B.C. today to visit areas affected by the flooding and meet with provincial, municipal, and First Nation leaders.
Trudeau’s schedule says he will be in the Abbotsford area and will also meet with members of the military, first responders and volunteers.
He is to be in Victoria later in the day to meet with Premier John Horgan.
Farnworth says officials will be closely watching the coming storms for increasing flood and slide threats.
Environment Canada says Howe Sound, as well as northern sections of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, were expected to receive up to 80 millimetres of rain by Friday morning. Southern sections of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley were forecast to receive up to 50 millimetres.
But despite the weather warnings, the government says progress is being made in re-establishing vital highway links and interrupted supply chains.
Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said Thursday that a major section of the Trans-Canada Highway between Abbotsford and Chilliwack has reopened and work on the damaged Coquihalla Highway is underway. The major route that connects the Lower Mainland with the B.C. Interior could reopen in late January, but to commercial traffic only, he added.
Fleming said about 20 sites along the Coquihalla Highway from Hope to Merritt have been badly damaged and five bridges have either collapsed or sustained serious structural problems.
The Trans-Canada Highway through the Fraser Canyon remains closed as does Highway 8 between Spences Bridge and Merritt, but Highway 3 from Hope to the Interior is open as is Highway 7 between Agassiz and Hope.
The federal government and Vancouver Fraser Port Authority announced they are working together to address supply chain disruptions, with Ottawa contributing up to $4.1 million to ease bottlenecks at Vancouver ports.
Farnworth said the coming rains have emergency officials making preparations in the Sumas area of the Fraser Valley where major flooding has already occurred.
“The focus right now is on the flood-impacted areas where the ground is saturated and dikes have been under pressure,” he said.
“The entire region is getting the attention and the focus to make sure that not only are crews there but the equipment, the sandbags, of which I think about two million are in place to be able to deal with the weather events we are seeing.”