Rain and wind warnings, flood watches issued for Vancouver Island ahead of next atmospheric river

Rain and wind warnings, flood watches issued for Vancouver Island ahead of next atmospheric river
Streets were swamped with water in a storm that soaked B.C. Monday, Nov. 15, 2021.

Rainfall warnings are in effect for much of Vancouver Island as the second in a series of three atmospheric rivers bears down on B.C.’s South Coast.

The rainfall warnings were issued for east and west Vancouver Island, while a wind warning was issued for the North Island.

The rain will fall the heaviest on the west coast of the island, with between 100 to 130 millimetres in the forecast between Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

“Rain has begun and will intensify during the day. Heavy rain will start to ease late Sunday morning,” Environment Canada said.

Port Renfrew could be the hardest-hit with up to 130 millimetres of precipitation.

Snowmelt will contribute to runoff increasing the risk of flooding, and could impact “vulnerable” landscapes and infrastructure, the weather agency said.

Flash floods and water pooling is also possible on roads, and residents should watch for washouts near rivers, creeks and culverts.

Eastern Vancouver Island will see less rain, but a warning is still in effect from Nanoose Bay to Fanny Bay with between 50 to 70 millimetres forecast.

A flood watch has been issued by the River Forecast Centre for central, eastern, southern and western Vancouver Island.

Under a flood watch, river levels can be seen rising and can approach or exceed banks, the forecast centre said.

The incoming storm has some, like Halalt First Nation, desperately racing to sandbag areas along the fast-rising Chemainus River.

“It came up about three or four feet yesterday just with that rainfall. The ground’s saturated already so there’s nowhere for it to go,” Halalt First Nations Chief James Thomas told CHEK News Friday.

The weekend storm follows a wet Thursday for the west coast as well, with 193 mm of rain falling over 24 hours in the Tofino area.

Thursday’s storm was the first in a parade of three systems to hit Vancouver Island and follows a historic storm last week that washed-out highways across the province that are still under repair.

Work is continuing around the clock on the Coquihalla Highway where five bridges collapsed or sustained serious damage and sections of the major four-lane route were washed out.

“All told, about 20 sites have been badly damaged or washed away,” said Transportation Minister Rob Fleming. “This is about 130 kilometres of the corridor that is affected. This is going to be a daunting task to get that highway back to being fully operational.”

The wind warning in effect for northern Vancouver Island predicts southeast winds of up to 90 kilometres an hour, with gusts up to 110 kilometres an hour Saturday morning over exposed coastal sections.

The winds were expected to ease later Saturday morning.

Jeff LawrenceJeff Lawrence

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