A monstrous storm in BC leaves motorists and forces residents to escape flooding

AGASSIZ, BC – Melanie Forsythe’s return trip home from Vancouver to Hope, BC, caused her to make at least five detours when torrential rain washed away a bridge, closed roads, and trapped her overnight between two landslides before for a helicopter to land on a highway and carry her to safety.

Forsythe, who was with her boyfriend Shawn Ramsay and a friend, finally made it to a reception center in Agassiz on Monday, about 18 hours after they were forced to stop on Highway 7 near Agassiz with nearly 300 more travelers.

“The three of us were hyping each other up, saying it was going to be good, that we’ll get out of here. But then we all had moments like, ‘Is this? Is this the last time we go?’ Are you going to see our children? We were talking to our parents and our families, but it was a scary situation. “

Forsythe, 47, said her children are in their early 20s, but she was concerned about a nurse alone in her vehicle without her young son, who was at her home in Hope.

Seeing people stuck on the road overnight helping each other by offering diapers or sharing any food almost made her cry, Forsythe said.

She and everyone in her vehicle were with about two dozen people, including the boy’s mother, who were flown together to a reception center where nearly 80 people had already arrived from the road.

Twelve people had been rescued from Highway 7 by the local fire department Sunday night before Vancouver’s heavy urban search and rescue team was called in on Monday.

Jonathan Gormick, information officer for the rescue team, said about 275 people were trapped between the two slides, including 50 children and 20 dogs. All were rescued and taken to the evacuation center before 6pm.

On Tuesday, crew members are tasked with searching for people who may have been trapped in the rubble of the slides. There were no reports of fatalities on Monday.

Jashanpreet Singh and his wife, Harleen Kaur, were also trapped between the two slides on Sunday and encountered a vehicle that had been partially crushed by a slide.

“” The three of us were cheering each other on, saying it was going to be good, that we’ll get out of here, “said Melanie Forsyth, who was rescued by helicopter in the British Columbia storm. #BCStorm

A nine-year-old boy was injured and had blood draining from his nose and ears, Kaur said.

Firefighters who were the first to arrive on the scene Sunday were able to take care of the boy, he said.

Both were airlifted Monday. Singh said they learned a valuable lesson because they had no food or water with them.

The landslides rolled onto the highway during an “atmospheric river” that brought a deluge of rain and flooding to the southwest and center of the province and forced an evacuation order in the inner city of Merritt on Monday.

Merritt issued an evacuation order for its population of around 7,000, saying residents couldn’t use water from taps or toilets.

“Floods have inundated two bridges across the Coldwater River and flooding prevents access to the third,” the city said in a statement.

“The permanence of the community without sanitary services presents a risk of massive accumulation of sewage and a risk for personal health.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement posted on Twitter that the federal government is ready to help British Columbia residents affected by flooding and extreme weather.

“To the people of Merritt and all the people of British Columbia affected by the floods: please stay safe,” he said.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said several areas were hit by heavy rains causing flooding and landslides.

“A landslide near Lillooet caused nearly 50 vehicles to get stuck,” he said. “Ministry teams and the Pemberton search and rescue team have rescued those who were at the scene and are being housed in Pemberton. More than 20 emergency centers have been activated,” he said of the help being offered in the affected areas.

“People in Merritt, Princeton and the areas along Hwy 7 and 99 and Coquihalla (Hwy) are seeing the worst,” he said.

Several roads have been closed due to flooding or landslides, including sections of Highway 1A, Highway 3, Highway 11, Highway 12, and Highway 91.

Paula Cousins, the Transportation Ministry representative for the Interior region, said the Highway 5 corridor between Hope and Merritt was closed Monday due to landslides and rock falls after 230 millimeters of rain fell since Saturday morning. evening.

Heavy rains later on Monday gave way to windstorms that could uproot trees and cause further power outages in some areas after 16,000 customers lost power on Sunday.

Armel Castellan, a meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada, said Monday that wind gusts of up to 90 kilometers per hour were expected for Victoria and much of the south coast and inland.

“Definitely, the atmospheric river will end today as it moves south, deeper into Washington state. That said, when that clearing happens, it will come with a big gust of wind,” he said.

Historic conditions meant that some areas saw an average amount of rain for November in less than 48 hours, Castellan said, adding that the rain will turn to snow in places like the Coquihalla summit and could fall 20 centimeters.

A local state of emergency has been declared in part of British Columbia’s eastern Fraser Valley, where incessant rains led to flooding, mudslides and rocks, and road closures to and from the southern interior.

James Reinheller’s family home in Abbotsford is scheduled to appear in the Christmas issue of House and Home magazine, but it was one of the first to be hit by a strong wave of water Sunday when streams overflowed in the neighborhood. .

The damage to some houses across the street was so severe that they appeared to have been struck by a vehicle, not water, he said.

River and stream flood alerts and alerts were issued for areas from Merritt south to the United States border, the lower Fraser region, and southern sections of Vancouver Island.

This Canadian Press report was first published on November 15, 2021.


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