More flood warnings, watches issued in B.C. as province braces for third rainstorm

More flood warnings, watches issued in B.C. as province braces for third rainstorm
The Canadian Press

Flood warnings are posted for a section of British Columbia’s southern Interior and flood watches or high water advisories cover large parts of the province, as it deals with the consequences of a second major rainstorm in as many weeks and braces for a third.

Environment Canada says more than 100 millimetres of rain drenched the Fraser Valley city of Abbotsford over the weekend, while more fell in Hope and another 100 mm could fall once the third storm arrives tonight.

Flood warnings have been issued for the Coldwater, Coquihalla, Nicola and Tulameen rivers, which all caused serious flood damage earlier this month to cities and towns along their banks, including Merritt, Spences Bridge, Princeton and Hope.

A flood warning also remains in effect for the Sumas River through Abbotsford, where rising levels forced crews to set up a portable dam last night to protect a key stretch of Highway 1.

READ MORE: Soldiers and neighbours sandbag to protect Cowichan Valley from floods

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun says the focus is on flooding of the Nooksack River in Washington state, because its high waters have the potential to further inundate low-lying Abbotsford areas.

A social media post by the City of Sumas in Washington says floodwaters from the river continue to move north toward Canada but had not yet reached a key bridge about half a kilometre from the border.

“When that happens we will use the flood siren once again,” the post said Monday.

“At that time we will recommend everyone shelter in place. Most of the roads in and out of Sumas are already closed. Please do not panic. Make any necessary preparations now.”

Braun said the flood zone is so saturated that more water from the Nooksack River would simply surge above ground “like a surfer.”

“It’ll come here a lot faster than in the previous event,” Braun said Sunday while providing an update on flood-management measures. Flooding has destroyed dairy and poultry farms as well as fruit and vegetable fields in one of B.C.’s prime agricultural areas.

A precautionary evacuation order was issued for another handful of Abbotsford properties late Sunday. Several more homes were also placed on evacuation alert after a mudslide threatened properties on a hillside north of Highway 1, away from the Sumas flooding

The second storm had subsided in many areas by early Monday. The River Forecast Centre said many rivers were receding, but it also said it would be ready to issue additional flood warnings if required.

READ MORE: Environment Canada cautions of another ‘atmospheric river’ 

The centre was maintaining a flood watch for the South Coast including the Sunshine Coast and Lower Mainland north to Pemberton and the entire length of Vancouver Island.

“An additional atmospheric river is forecast to arrive to coastal British Columbia on Tuesday and may pose additional risk to flooding on the Central Coast and again on Vancouver Island, the centre said in a weekend advisory.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth has said the province is prepared to use Alert Ready, a system that pushes emergency notifications directly to cellphones, if local authorities believe the next storm poses a threat to life or public safety.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 29, 2021.

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