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Highway 1 to Hope reopens as rains ease in B.C., flood warnings remain in place

Friday, December 3rd 2021, 7:45 am - Concern over extensive snow melt after storms bring high temperatures to much of province

THE LATEST:

  • The third major storm in over a week eased off in southern B.C. on Wednesday evening, but high temperatures and the risk of snowmelt means communities are still cautiously watching river levels.
  • Evacuation orders remain in effect for properties near waterways in the Fraser Valley, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, and the Sea to Sky region. For more on evacuation alerts and orders, see here.
  • Highway 1 between the Lower Mainland and Hope, B.C., has reopened as of Thursday afternoon.
  • Highway 99 has been closed between Lillooet and Pemberton after a mudslide. Many highways in the province are still under travel advisories. Highway 1, between Abbotsford and Chilliwack, is expected to open Thursday afternoon. For a full list of closures, see here.
  • West Coast Express trains were cancelled between Vancouver and the flood-ravaged community of Mission in the Fraser Valley because of a mudslide on the tracks. Service resumed Thursday afternoon with delays.
  • Flood warnings have remained in place for the Coldwater and Nicola rivers even as other flood warnings have been downgraded. For all flood advisories. For all flood advisories, see here.

British Columbia is set to begin rebuilding from extensive flooding and mudslides after the last of three major storms eased off on Wednesday evening, but flood warnings remain in place for large parts of the province.

The stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway connecting the Lower Mainland to Hope, B.C., has reopened as of Thursday afternoon.

"I know this is very welcome news to many people in the region," Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said during a news conference.

Further east, from Hope to Popkum, is also open, though with restricted flow of traffic near Bridal Falls.

"We're not back to driving normal yet," Fleming said, as he advised residents to follow fuel restrictions.

"If your travel is not necessary, please don't be out there just yet."

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth is reminding those who do need to be on the roads to have their winter tires on, and to keep an emergency kit in their car.

B.C. DEC. 2: Freezing levels

Communities battered by floods, including many in the Fraser Valley and the Nicola Valley east of Vancouver, remain under flood warning because of high river levels and elevated temperatures causing snow melt.

A flood watch means river levels are rising and may exceed their banks and flood adjacent areas. A flood warning means river levels have exceeded or will exceed their banks, and nearby areas will flood as a result.

Numerous highways also remain closed throughout the province, including Highway 99 between Lillooet and Pemberton because of a mudslide, as well as Highway 3 east of Princeton.

A mudslide on Canadian Pacific train tracks also led to West Coast Express commuter trains to be cancelled, with further closures on Thursday morning due to a mudslide on the tracks.

Service is expected to resume Thursday afternoon. However, trains may be delayed arriving into Port Haney and Mission City Stations due to slower speed requirements through the mudslide area.

In Abbotsford, there are concerns that snow melt from Mt. Baker in Washington state could lead to more floodwater flowing into the Fraser Valley from across the U.S. border.

B.C. Dec 2, 2021: Snowfall forecast


Hitting the slopes? Be sure to check conditions first with The Weather Network's Ski Report!


The storm systems that brought rain to much of southwest B.C. over the last two weeks of November also brought elevated temperatures, according to meteorologists.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said modelling showed water levels would subside towards the end of the week, but said the situation could change in minutes.

"I would like to stress that even though it may not be actively raining, there is a lot of rainwater and snow melt that is still making its way down from the mountains," he said on Wednesday.

"The situation still remains variable and we are continuing to monitor this situation very closely."

CBC: A trampoline is pictured wrapped around a tree in the Sumas Prairie flood zone in Abbotsford, B.C. Even though rains eased in the drenched province, flood warnings remain in place for many parts of southwest B.C. (Ben Nelms/CBC) A trampoline is pictured wrapped around a tree in the Sumas Prairie flood zone in Abbotsford, B.C. Even though rains eased in the drenched province, flood warnings remain in place for many parts of southwest B.C. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

In a flood update on Thursday, Braun said the water levels in Sumas Prairie dropped seven inches in the last 24 hours, due to the Barrowtown pumping station.

"While seven inches, or 178 millimetres, is still good progress for one day, there is still a lot of water to be pumped out," he said.

The process of draining the Sumas Prairie will take another two to three weeks and those who live in the affected areas won't be able to return home until that work is complete, Braun said.

NEW MUDSLIDES LEAD TO HIGHWAY CLOSURES

After numerous temporary highway reopenings, closures on Wednesday meant Metro Vancouver was once again effectively isolated from the rest of the province.

A fresh mudslide on Highway 99, in the Sea to Sky region, led to a closure between Pemberton and Lillooet. The stretch earlier saw a mudslide that left four people dead and one missing during the mid-November storm.

Highway 3 from Hope to Princeton is open for essential travel only. However, on Wednesday flooding east of Princeton forced a closure between Taylor Way and Old Hedley Road. There is no detour for commercial vehicles, but light vehicles may navigate around the closure using Old Hedley Road.

Extensive rebuilding on washed-out highways, including the Coquihalla (Highway 5), is expected to take a long time, further constraining the supply chain throughout the province.

flooding-abbotsford-truck-sandbags A flooded semi-truck is pictured near sandbags in Abbotsford. Supply chain issues stemming from the floods continue to affect British Columbians, with food deliveries delayed and fuel rationing in place. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

WATCH BELOW: RAIN CAUSES DANGEROUS AVALANCHE CONDITIONS IN SOUTHERN B.C.

REPORT SAYS FLOOD FORECASTING CENTRE UNDERSTAFFED

The River Forecast Centre, which issues flood warnings for the whole province, was found to be understaffed in a report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives on Wednesday.

Ben Parfitt, a resource policy analyst with the CCPA, says the centre in its current form is ill-equipped to anticipate and respond to flooding events.

Parfitt says understaffing could lead to an inability to effectively communicate timely warnings — something he says happened in B.C. during these past two weeks.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth defended the institute, saying the centre "does an amazing job and we have extraordinary individuals that do amazing work".

However, he acknowledged that the government would be reviewing its response to the flooding emergency going forward.

This article was originally published for CBC News, with files from Joel Ballard and The Canadian Press.

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