Superstorm “uncharted territory” announced with little talk about climate change

British Columbia remains in “uncharted territory” with a string of storms hitting areas of the province that are already struggling to recover from devastating floods, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said Wednesday.

The wind and rain warnings covered most of the British Columbia coastline and come after a dozen so-called atmospheric rivers have saturated land in the province since September.

Farnworth said that even routine rains can cause swollen rivers to rise to dangerous heights and urged residents to prepare for evacuations and stay tuned for updates.

“These storms come at a time when we are already dealing with some of the destructive weather events that we have seen,” Farnworth said.

“Although we are up to the challenge, we are working on a monumental task.”

The government is making progress in recovery from last week’s floods, he added, with supply chains stabilizing, gas shortages beginning to wane and some evacuees are able to return home.

Highway 1’s main arterial supply route through the Fraser Valley is on track to reopen Thursday, while Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. announced that the first trains arrived in Vancouver from Kamloops on Wednesday with grain and fuel.

However, the government also acknowledged that it has heard concerns from indigenous communities about lack of communication before the last flood, systemic racism in the emergency response system, and complicated procedures for accessing support.

“I heard we have more work to do,” Indian Relations Minister Murray Rankin said Tuesday of a call with First Nations leaders.

Transport Minister Rob Fleming said the government is prepared to close some roads as a precaution, as modelers try to predict where and when floods and landslides could occur.

“Some of the destructive weather conditions we’ve seen …”

The wind and rain warnings come as the number of people confirmed dead or missing in the floods rose to six, and the RCMP said officers are investigating a report of a missing woman who was unable to leave a home on Highway 8. Before he took her away In the past week. Four bodies have been recovered from a landslide along Highway 99 near Lillooet and one man remains missing.

The center that monitors the province’s waterways said several atmospheric rivers will soak up BC, dropping up to 70 millimeters of rain over the Fraser Valley, including Abbotsford, by Thursday and even more over Vancouver’s North Shore Mountains.

The River Forecast Center statement said another storm will arrive on Saturday and “additional storms are expected early next week,” although the amount and severity of the rains is still being determined.

The center issued high flow advisories for waterways along the entire British Columbia coastline and maintained a flood advisor for the Sumas River and the Sumas Prairie around Abbotsford. He said the rivers were expected to rise Thursday at the potentially highest flows expected around the Sunshine Coast corridor, Howe Sound and the North Shore.

Rivers in the Fraser Valley could rise by similar amounts to typical fall storms, but could be “more problematic due to flood response and recovery efforts and damaged infrastructure in the region,” he said.

BC Hydro warned of potential power outages and said in a statement that crews were releasing water from some reservoirs, which were already full, in anticipation of more rain.

More than 258,000 people were without power during last week’s storms.

Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. said the first trains arrived in Vancouver from Kamloops on Wednesday after operations on the line resumed on Tuesday.

Thirty locations in CP’s Thompson and Cascade subdivisions were damaged, 20 of them significantly. Hundreds of employees and contractors have been working “day and night” to restore the rail line, the company said in a statement.

“This route is CP’s busiest corridor handling a wide range of products and raw materials. It connects the Port of Vancouver and BC with the rest of Canada and North America,” the statement said.

Farnworth said Tuesday that more than 6,500 people had registered as evacuees and those whose homes were flooded last week are eligible for a $ 2,000 grant through the Canadian Red Cross and the province.

On Wednesday, he added that a new contact center line was also established to provide emergency support and information on financial aid, road conditions and more.

Local communities also braced for the storms, with communities like View Royal installing self-service sandbag stations in a local park.

In Abbotsford, where floods destroyed farmland and killed livestock, the mayor said officials are doing everything they can to prepare.

Repairs to the main levee gap were nearly 90 percent complete, Mayor Henry Braun said Wednesday, and nearly a meter of additional height was on track to be added before the first storm hit Thursday.

The city issued a no-water advisory for the entire Sumas prairie due to gaps in the inaccessible water pipes and potentially toxic material in the floodwaters.

While repairs to the levee were essential to seal the flow of water, work is still underway to pump out the remaining water and complete safety assessments before allowing full access to the area, Braun said.

Right now, the focus is on the coming storms, he added.

“We are as prepared as we can be,” Braun said.

This Canadian Press report was first published on November 24, 2021.

Leave a Comment