Flooding on Vancouver Island shuts down highways, state of emergency declared in Cowichan Valley

Flooding on Vancouver Island shuts down highways, state of emergency declared in Cowichan Valley
WatchFlooding seen at the Russell Farms Market near the area of Highway 1 shut down due to flooding

Heavy rainfall across Vancouver Island has caused significant flooding in multiple communities.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District has declared a local state of emergency after intense localized flooding forced evacuations and shut down roads.

Highway 1 between Chemainus and Duncan opened up Saturday just before 11 a.m., after being closed for several hours due to flooding.

The flooding was just south of the Chemainus River Bridge, blocking both directions.

Twenty-three people had to be evacuated in areas of Crofton late Friday night. Evacuations continued on Saturday morning.

“Anytime that residents are displaced from their homes, it’s an emergency,” said Kris Schumacher, the manager of communications and engagement for the Cowichan Valley Regional District. “It was important for us to do it across the region because it was an evolving situation that was happening in a number of different areas.”

The Cowichan Community Centre was opened as a group lodging and reception centre, and hosted around 28 evacuated residents from North Cowichan and the Halalt First Nation. The centre is now closed, and anyone impacted has been moved to different accommodations.

The CVRD says the state of emergency is remaining in place until further notice.

Officials say the centre is ready to re-open if flooding returns.

A business in the impacted area, Russell Farms Market & Garden Centre, is seeing major flooding.

Dyana Lewis lives just down the street from the market, on Mount Sicker Road.

“There was just water absolutely everywhere and it was flowing hard,” said Lewis. “If anybody tried to walk across it, I’m sure they would have just been swept.”

Her house is on a hill, so it was safe from the flooding. Lewis’ barn, however, is on lower ground and saw lots of flooding early in the morning.

“We have a 20-acre hay field and it was completely under water,” she said. “The barn where the horses were standing, they were standing in about a foot of water.”

Many residents are sharing similar stories of the impact the flooding has had on their homes. Highway Rentals owner Bernadette Scudder said that’s why everyone is pitching in to help by providing free sandbags to residents needing them to protect their properties from the water.

“We’ve gotten phone calls from people all day saying ‘do we need a hand, do we need help filling the sand bags,'” she said.

Early Saturday morning Highway 1 at the McKenzie interchange in Saanich saw closures due to flooding in the underpass.

Traffic is now flowing in the area.

Other roadways across the Island that were impacted including:

  • Cowichan Valley: Westholme Road, Chemainus Road, Canada Avenue, Mary Street, Tzouhalem Road — closed due to flooding.
  • Tofino/ Ucluelet: Highway 4, in both directions,  between Tofino-Ucluelet Hwy and Toquart Bay Road — single alternating lane due to a washout
  • Multiple roads leading to Bamfield — impacted after washouts.
  • Multiple roads in the Nanaimo area — closed due to flooding.

Many of the routes have been opened back up. The CVRD says flaggers are now in place at any closures in their area.

A bridge washed out on the route to Bamfield/Pachena (photo: Facebook/Ken King)

A bridge washed out on the route to Bamfield/Pachena (photo: Facebook/Ken King)

There were also delays on the Malahat. A fallen tree and a mudslide caused intermittent closures. Around noon the route was clear.

The weather is being blamed on an “atmospheric river”, which are long, narrow regions in the atmosphere that transport most of the water vapour outside of the tropics.

READ MORE: January to close as one of the wettest on record for parts of the Island

Drive B.C. is warning of pooling on many Island roads. Updates on road conditions and closures can be found here.

Jasmine BalaJasmine Bala

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