British Columbia braces for more storms as Trudeau inspects flood damage

VICTORIA – Increasingly intense storms are forecast to hit British Columbia in the coming days, prompting warnings to prepare people to evacuate.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the biggest storm is expected to hit Tuesday and people living in flood-prone areas should be vigilant.

“The time to prepare is now,” he told a news conference Thursday.

Farnworth urged people to have food, water, blankets and flashlights ready in case the waters rise in their communities, as a second storm in a series of three storms will arrive on Saturday.

The warning came as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prepared to visit the flood-damaged town of Abbotsford before meeting Prime Minister John Horgan in Victoria on Friday afternoon.

Trudeau’s schedule shows that he will also meet with members of the military, first responders and volunteers in the Fraser Valley and get a first-hand look at some of the flooding that occurred two weeks ago.

Rising rivers and heavy rains caused flooding and landslides that damaged and closed some major roads, forced the evacuation of the city of Merritt, and left low-lying sections of the Abbotsford-Chilliwack area, the heart of the poultry, egg, and Dairy of British Columbia. more than two meters of water.

Six people have died or are missing.

Some evacuees in Abbotsford and Merritt were allowed to return to their homes earlier this week, and officials in Merritt said more evacuees from that southern interior city may return home on Saturday.

Work to restart a key pipeline has been delayed, Trans Mountain Corp. said Thursday in a post on its website.

Increasingly intense rainstorms are forecast to hit British Columbia in the coming days, prompting warnings so people are prepared to evacuate. #BCStorms #BCFloods

The company, which operates the Trans Mountain pipeline between the Edmonton and Burnaby, BC area, said plans to resume operations this week have been abandoned.

“With the continued deterioration of weather conditions in the region in the coming days, Trans Mountain is closely monitoring the situation to ensure that our crews can continue to advance safely,” the statement said.

A day earlier, the company had said it was optimistic it could restart the pipeline at reduced capacity by the end of the week, moving the crude oil to a refinery that is the main supplier of gasoline products to Metro Vancouver.

The pipeline was kept “safe in a static condition,” the company said, as more than 400 workers and 100 crews were assigned to repair work.

“Our focus has shifted to full repairs to ensure the integrity of the line where it has been exposed and impacted by flooding and debris,” said Trans Mountain.

The lack of crude oil forced the Parkland refinery in Burnaby to halt operations until the pipeline was reopened and the closure, along with other supply chain problems, led the provincial government to impose gas rationing for the island. from Vancouver, Greater Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast, limiting drivers. to 30 liters per fill.

Environment Canada said the first of three expected storms had subsided early Friday, but had drenched the Abbotsford area with 55 millimeters of rain since Wednesday night.

Data from the meteorological office shows that the storm also brought 193mm of rain to the Tofino area of ​​Vancouver Island, but only 35mm to Hope, the entrance to the Coquihalla Highway, the main route connecting the lower part of the continent. with the interior of British Columbia.

Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said about 20 sites along the Hope to Merritt highway had been badly damaged and five bridges collapsed or had serious structural problems.

“We are reasonably optimistic that enough temporary repairs can be completed to allow commercial traffic on the corridor in approximately two months, by the end of January.”

It all depends on the weather when vital road links and disrupted supply chains are reestablished, Fleming said. But he noted that a major section of the Trans-Canada Highway between Abbotsford and Chilliwack had been reopened.

The Trans-Canada Highway through Fraser Canyon remained closed, along with Highway 8 between Spences Bridge and Merritt. But Highway 3 from Hope to the interior was open, as was Highway 7 between Agassiz and Hope.

The federal government and the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority said they are working together to address supply chain disruptions, with Ottawa contributing up to $ 4.1 million to alleviate bottlenecks at Vancouver ports.

Farnworth said storms expected Saturday and Tuesday 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-affected areas where the soil is saturated and the levees have been under pressure,” he said.

“The whole region is getting the attention and focus to make sure there are not only crews, but also the equipment, the sandbags, of which I think two million are in place to be able to deal with the weather events that we are facing. seeing. “

This Canadian Press report was first published on November 26, 2021.

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