Terry Glavin: The scale of the disaster unfolding in B.C. is unprecedented
VICTORIA — At some point in the coming days the penny will drop, and we’ll all be seized of the implications attending to the ongoing disaster on Canada’s west coast. First the rain, then the wind, and soon, everything will be freezing. For starters, if you think the Canadian economy is beset by global “supply chain” bottlenecks now, you just wait.
Owing to several washouts and mudslides, the old southerly route — Highway 3, snaking through the Cascades, Monashees and Selkirk mountains to the Crowsnest Pass in the Rockies — is impassable. The Fraser Canyon route, northward from Hope, about 130 kilometres east of Vancouver, has been smashed by rockslides and waterfalls that burst out of nowhere from the Coast mountains over the weekend.
CP Rail is looking to divert shipping traffic via Portland, Oregon, but restoring east-west overland connections by American routes won’t be easy. Washington State is a mess, too. Floodwaters from the Nooksack River have poured across the Canada-U.S. border into the Fraser Valley. Sumas Lake, an ancient waterbody drained to create farmland back in the 1920s, is a lake again today. Thousands of people have been evacuated.
About 280 kilometres east of Vancouver by a now non-functioning road, the Tulameen and Similkameen Rivers broke their dykes and burst their banks on Monday, and the rivers are now flowing through much of the town of Princeton. The temperature is dropping below freezing, the natural gas line that heats local homes is broken, the town’s water systems are wrecked, and nobody knows when things will be “normal” again.
While Princeton was drowning, the Coldwater River was venting its rage on the town of Merritt, 90 kilometres north of Princeton, and the entire community has been shut down because of the “immediate danger to public health and safety.” Roughly 7,000 people have been ordered to make their way to emergency centres in Kamloops and Kelowna.