Southern B.C. prepares for more storms as federal support pours into flood-ravaged province

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THE LATEST:

  • Up to 120 millimetres of rain is set to fall on the southern parts of British Columbia on Saturday, threatening communities already ravaged by floods and mudslides.

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that a new committee will be formed to manage the province’s recovery from the flooding disaster.

  • The River Forecast Centre has issued a flood watch for the South Coast, Lower Fraser Valley and the southern regions of Vancouver Island.

  • Three highways will be proactively closed on Saturday afternoon as the province braces for more damage from storms.

  • The provincial and federal governments will be matching all donations to the Red Cross’s flood fundraising campaign for one month, tripling the donation amount for each individual donation.

  • For a list of up-to-date flood warnings, visit the River Forecast Centre.

Communities throughout southern B.C. are preparing for an atmospheric river to strike on Saturday, even as federal plans to help the province recover from devastating floods and mudslides were announced.

The heaviest rain is set to fall on Saturday night, according to Environment Canada, which issued a rainfall warning on Friday and warned of another storm front arriving on Tuesday.

More than 100 millimetres of rain will hit near the mountains in southern B.C., with 80 millimetres of rain set to fall on the Fraser Valley, an area southeast of Metro Vancouver devastated by floods two weeks ago.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the community of Abbotsford in the Fraser Valley on Friday, seeing flood damage first-hand and talking to local officials, first responders and First Nations leaders.

Hundreds of people remain away from their homes due to the disaster, with supply chains still constrained and communities still dealing with standing water.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said the estimated 220 millimetres of rain falling on the city over the next five days would be a “situation they had never faced before.”

Trudeau said he saw “amazing” strength and resilience from first responders in Abbotsford, and he praised community efforts in the wake of the floods.

WATCH | The prime minister visits a community battered by floods: 

Trudeau tours flood-ravaged B.C.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made his first visit to B.C. since record-breaking rainfall caused widespread flooding and mudslides in the province. 2:54

Later on Friday, he announced a committee set to shape the province’s recovery from the widespread floods at a joint media conference with B.C. Premier John Horgan.

“It’s not going to be enough for us to be there now and in the coming weeks — we need to be there for each other in the coming months and coming years,” he said.

At the news conference, Horgan and Trudeau announced that the federal and provincial governments would be matching donations to the Canadian Red Cross’s flood fundraising campaign for 30 days starting on Friday.

That means every $1 donated will be tripled to $3, with the governments also retroactively matching every donation since the campaign started on Nov. 17.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, with Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun on Friday. Braun said the community is bracing for more than 200 millimetres of rain over the next five days, threatening a community already swamped by floodwaters. (Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters)

Highways to be proactively closed

B.C. Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said some highways would be closed on Saturday as further damage from storms is anticipated.

The three highways affected will be:

  • Highway 3 between Hope and Princeton.

  • Highway 99 between Pemberton and Lillooet.

  • Highway 1 in the Fraser Canyon.

Both Highway 3 and Highway 99 will be closed on Saturday afternoon, with no exact time provided for when Highway 1 will be closed.

Reopening times will vary based on weather conditions, the province said.

Fleming urged residents not to travel unless they needed to over the weekend, and he said large-scale rebuilding operations will take extreme weather events into account.

“Consider restricting your travel because we have significant weather events,” he said on Friday. “We do need to have our highways functioning for the movement of goods and we need to be safe.”

B.C. Transportation Minister Rob Fleming asked residents of the province to avoid travel this weekend unless it was essential, with further storms on the horizon. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Horgan admits dike management model flawed

The province says supply chains are getting back to normal after significant damage to road networks. 

Federal support to clear the backlog at the Port of Vancouver, as well as fuel shipments from the U.S., is said to have helped alleviate shortages.

Horgan told the news conference on Friday that neighbouring Washington state was also helping with water management.

The City of Sumas, Wash., said damage to levees during the previous storm event may lead to greater water flows, and the Nooksack River was expected to reach the “moderate flood” stage on Sunday.

Particular attention is being paid to the Nooksack and whether it will overflow its dikes. If that happens, floods may worsen in the Fraser Valley region.

Horgan admitted that B.C.’s dike management system, which is largely left up to local municipalities, is flawed and needs changing.

Crews repair the Sumas dike in Abbotsford, B.C., after heavy rains and flooding. Premier John Horgan says the current dike management system in the province, largely left to municipalities, is flawed. (City of Abbotsford)

“[The diking system] was a bad call,” he said. “There needs to be more than those local dollars at play if we’re going to protect communities going forward.”

Horgan said he would be working with the prime minister to get provincial and federal funding and support communities with their flood management plans.

READ MORE:

  • The flood disaster has caused an unprecedented load on shelters throughout the province, with a co-ordinator in Abbotsford saying they were seeing record numbers of beds being occupied.

  • The B.C. Agriculture Council said some farms have lost acres of crops due to the floods, and it may take years for them to recover.

  • One of those farms was run by Avtar Dhillon, who lost his saffron crop to the floods in the Sumas Prairie region of Abbotsford. He says he has not lost hope and wants to grow the crop in B.C. again.

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