Crews race to make repairs as another ‘atmospheric river’ forecast for B.C.
Just as engineers, heavy-equipment operators, labourers and volunteers start to pull B.C. out of the ravages of mud, floods and landslides, another set of wet storms are set to push the province back to the brink.
On Monday, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth warned British Columbians that there was more heavy rain forecast over the next several weeks, including an atmospheric river expected to sweep Metro Vancouver from Wednesday to Friday.
This warning came as more headway was made draining the Sumas Prairie, reopening highways — for essential travel at least — and as barges of much-needed fuel were being shipped to Vancouver from Washington state and the critical Canadian Pacific rail link was set to reopen.
It had been just over a week since B.C.’s southwest and Washington to the south were hit with extraordinarily heavy rain, leading to flooding in the Sumas Prairie, Merritt and Princeton, highway and railway closures and the deaths of at least four people and thousands of dairy cows and chickens.
Among other things, Merritt’s wastewater treatment facility was shut down, the Coquihalla Highway link to Kelowna is expected to be shut for months, the Trans Mountain Pipeline that carries fuel from Alberta to Burnaby is shuttered and as of Monday there was no rail access to the Port of Vancouver. For several hours on Nov. 15, the critical Barrowtown Pump Station in Abbotsford was expected to be flooded — which would have triggered catastrophic flooding in the Fraser Valley. It was saved by the efforts of dozens of volunteers who built a sandbag dam around the building.
“Over the last two years, we’ve seen no shortage of loss and adversity, whether it’s dealing with COVID-19, wildfires, the heat dome and now flooding,” said Farnworth. “We are expecting another rain event this Wednesday through Friday, and a series of further storms are expected in the coming weeks. That’s why it’s so important at every level that we prepare for these events as best we can.”