Flood evacuation alerts expand in Pemberton, B.C., with more rain in forecast

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
People walk a dog wearing a raincoat as others carry umbrellas while rain falls, in Vancouver, on Sunday, December 27, 2020.

Dusty McKinnon says driving through floodwaters in Pemberton, B.C., reminded him of fording rivers in Costa Rica, as water surged over the hood of his truck.

A weather system of unseasonal warmth has melted snow and brought drenching rain to the community 150 kilometres north of Vancouver.

It’s part of a series of atmospheric rivers — moisture-laden streams of warm Pacific air — that has been deluging B.C.’s South Coast since the weekend, pushing rivers over their banks and prompting flood warnings and advisories.

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McKinnon says the water on roads reached the grille of his truck on Tuesday in Pemberton, where six rural properties have been ordered evacuated.

The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District added two Pemberton properties on Wednesday to the list of dozens under evacuation alert, including a mobile home park, with residents told to be ready to leave on short notice.

“I have a big truck, and it was little scary because it was pretty deep in one spot that I went through,” McKinnon says of the flooding Tuesday.

“You better have a snorkel you know, it’s pretty deep out there … I was pushing the water, as you do when you’re driving across a flood scene, and some of it came up over my hood.”

He says it’s not unusual for Pemberton to see some flooding, but never this early in the year.

“It happens, but it’s usually later in the year,” McKinnon says. “It’s not right in the middle of winter.”

The Pemberton Animal Wellbeing Society said on social media that staff with Blackcomb Helicopters had broken into the shelter to rescue five puppies and their mother from what it described as “dangerous rising floodwaters.”

“Their swift and decisive actions saved lives and we are profoundly thankful,” said the statement posted Tuesday afternoon.

A dedicated volunteer also “braved the icy floodwaters” to rescue additional animals and retrieve essential supplies, the society said.

READ MORE: ‘Biggest storm event we’ve had’: Atmospheric rivers trigger fast melt of Island snowpack

The province’s River Forecast Centre said a flood warning remained in effect for the Lillooet, Squamish and Cheakamus rivers, and Environment Canada has issued a rainfall warning for the region.

Environment Canada says the Howe Sound region, including Squamish, will see another 50 millimetres of rain before precipitation tapers off Thursday.

The District of Squamish says in an update that some homes in the Northyards neighbourhood have seen “localized flooding” from the heavy rain and snowmelt, but river levels are dropping quickly and crews ran pumps Tuesday night in anticipation of more rain.

A bulletin from the River Forecast Centre says a gauge along the Lillooet River recorded flows seen once every five to 10 years, and rainfall since last Friday in some areas reached 250 millimetres.

The centre also says warm temperatures added another 75 to 150 millimetres of snowmelt to the run-off.

Flood watches are in effect across the rest of the South Coast, including Vancouver Island, while high stream-flow advisories cover the Central and North coasts.

— By Chuck Chiang and Nono Shen in Vancouver

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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