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Relentless rain prompts more evacuation orders in B.C.

Monday, November 29th 2021, 9:04 pm - Last in trio of Pacific weather systems could bring up to 100 millimetres more rain to flooded Fraser Valley.

THE LATEST:

  • The third in a series of Pacific storms bringing heavy rainfall to already-flooded areas of southwest B.C. is due to arrive Tuesday, with up to 100 millimetres of rain predicted for the Fraser Valley.
  • On Sunday, evacuation orders were issued for properties close to waterways around Abbotsford and in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District. For more on evacuation alerts and orders see here.
  • The District of Hope declared a state of local emergency.
  • Flood warnings have been issued for the Coquihalla River, Sumas River, Tulameen River, Coldwater River and Lower Nicola River. For all flood advisories see here.
  • A flood watch was issued for the Similkameen River and much of Vancouver Island.
  • Highway 1 between Chilliwack and Hope was closed to traffic at 5 p.m. PT Sunday. For a full list of closures, see here.

The third in a series of increasingly powerful storms is approaching British Columbia while the province is still surveying damage across the Lower Mainland and southern Interior caused by previous weather events.

Cleanup is still underway after an atmospheric river system caused devastating flooding and fatal mudslides Nov. 13-15. Three more systems have since been forecast to hit the province, the second of which forced more evacuation orders and road closures this weekend.

The third is expected to slam into B.C. later Tuesday, with officials warning it could be the worst one yet.

Environment Canada has issued a series of special weather alerts for much of B.C.'s southwest and coast, with up to another 100 millimetres of rainfall predicted for the Fraser Valley between Tuesday and Wednesday along with winds up to 60 km/h. Areas of Vancouver Island and the Central Coast could see as much as 200 millimetres of rain.

nooksack-river-seen-in-whatcom-county-photograph-nov-20-2021 The Nooksack River, which flows in Washington state, is creating a further flood threat in Abbotsford B.C. after exceeding its banks. (Whatcom County Government/Twitter)

Geoff Coulson, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, said Monday morning that the storm is expected to hit the North Coast late tonight and move south overnight.

He said the two recent storms dumped precipitation for about 24 to 36 hours, while this one could bring relentless rain for 48 hours.

"The concern with this event is the long duration," said Coulson.

b-c-highway-1-between-abbotsford-and-chilliwack B.C. Highway 1, east of Abbotsford, was partially covered by water on Sunday Nov. 28, 2021. (Government of B.C.)

NOOKSACK RIVER THREATENS AREAS OF ABBOTSFORD

The Fraser Valley has borne much of the brunt of the flooding and late Sunday several more residents of Abbotsford were ordered to evacuate their homes due to the ongoing threat.

Crews in the city, including members of the Canadian military, worked through the night to pump water into tiger dams to try to hold back floodwaters from the Sumas River. A tiger dam is a series of water-filled tubes over a metre in height that are used to create a barrier.

"We are pumping about a billion gallons a day," said Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun, speaking Monday on The Early Edition.

Braun said his "worst nightmare" is if the Nooksack River in Washington state breaches Abbotsford's dikes.

He said 17 kilometres of the city's dikes have been repaired and reinforced since they were damaged earlier this month, but the mayor is not positive it will be enough to hold back the Nooksack.

"Once it breached, you had a three-storey wall of water," he said, referring to last time the U.S. river overflowed its banks and crossed the border.

Braun said as of Monday shortly before 8 a.m., water about 20 centimetres deep was already coming across the border and entering the Sumas Prairie area of Abbotsford, which was extensively flooded after the Nov. 13-15 storm.

Abbotsford city staff are in hourly contact with counterparts in Whatcom County across the border who are monitoring the Nooksack, said Braun.

CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe said Abbotsford was hit with record rain on the weekend, with 118 millimetres falling on the already saturated city.

RED CROSS: British Columbia Floods and Extreme Weather Appeal

On Sunday evening, the District of Hope, about 155 kilometres east of Vancouver, declared a state of local emergency and later placed homes on Riverview Drive on an evacuation alert.

Wagstaffe said Hope had 140 millmetres of precipitation over the weekend.

Hope Mayor Peter Robb told CBC Monday district staff have been piling sandbags along the banks of the Coquihalla River and two evacuation centres are ready to receive people if necessary.

"We're doing the best we can," said Robb, adding residents can stay up to date on the situation on the district's website.

Evacuation alerts mean residents must be ready to leave their homes at a moment's notice. Evacuation orders mean residents should leave immediately.

The University of the Fraser Valley has cancelled all in-person classes for next week.

The Abbotsford School District said Robert Bateman Secondary and W.J. Mouat Secondary schools would offer virtual learning for the week, while all other district schools would meet in person.

On Sunday, B.C.'s River Forecast Centre issued a flood warning for the Coquihalla River and the Sumas River, which affects Sumas Prairie and the surrounding area.

It also upgraded flood watches to warnings for the Tulameen River, Coldwater River and Lower Nicola River.

A flood warning means river levels have exceeded banks and that flooding in adjacent areas will occur.

WATCH BELOW: FLOODWATERS HEAD TOWARD ABBOTSFORD, B.C. AGAIN, MAYOR UPDATES

HWY 1 CLOSED, NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL NOT ADVISED

On Sunday at 5 p.m. the province closed Highway 1 between Abbotsford and Chilliwack due to the impact of rains over the weekend. Officials did not say when the section of roadway would reopen.

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth is advising against non-essential travel in the coming days as the province braces for the third consecutive storm.

Farnworth says the government doesn't want to implement any unnecessary road closures that would further strain resources.

Those who must be on the road should drive carefully and never attempt to drive through floodwaters because the depth isn't always obvious, he said.

He also said people should prepare for emergencies by carrying food, water, warm clothes, blankets and well stocked emergency kits in their vehicles.

Farnworth has said the province is prepared to use Alert Ready — a system that pushes emergency notifications directly to cellphones — if local authorities believe the next storm poses a threat to life or public safety.

WATCH BELOW: WHAT YOU SHOULD PACK IN YOUR EMERGENCY KITS


Anyone placed under an evacuation order should leave the area immediately.

To find an evacuation centre close to you, visit the Emergency Management B.C. website.

Evacuees are encouraged to register with Emergency Support Services online, whether or not they access services at an evacuation centre.

Road conditions can be checked at DriveBC.


This article was originally published for CBC News, contains files from The Canadian Press.

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