Catastrophic flood warning issued for Sumas Prairie as pump system set to fail
The Fraser River was predicted to flood into the Sumas Prairie and surrounding areas on Tuesday night, potentially leading to catastrophic damage, significant risk to human life and devastation of livestock.
City of Abbotsford mayor Henry Braun made an urgent call at 8 p.m. for all people to immediately evacuate the area. That included hundreds of farmers who had stayed back to take care of their livestock and birds after an evacuation order earlier because of initial flooding caused by an overflowing river just south of the border.
“I know it’s hard for farmers to leave their life’s work. But lives are more important to me right now than livestock and chickens,” Braun said.
Fraser Valley farmers supply 50 per cent of all B.C.’s eggs, chickens and dairy products. There are 45,000 dairy cows in the valley, and each chicken farm has around 25,000 birds.
Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service Chief Darren Lee said that sandbags were being placed around the pump station to buy time and that smaller pumps were being flown in to beef up the station. All four pumps were working, but they were unable to stop the rise of the water in the canal and once water got into the pumping station, he said, the pumps would fail.
If the pumps do fail, an emergency broadcast will be made to residents of Abbotsford and Chilliwack by text message.
Lee said that swift water rescue assets were being sent to the area so that at first light they could be used if people were stranded by rising water. Once the pump station fails, the water level was expected to reach around 10 feet (three metres) in the prairie — which could take from two to seven days.