Evacuation alerts, flood warnings as 'third intense storm' batters B.C.
BARRIE -- Evacuation alerts and travel advisories have been issued in parts of southwestern B.C. and the province’s coastal region, as a third atmospheric river threatens to bring heavy rain and more potential flooding to the area.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, the province’s Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth said the region is in “the midst of this third intense storm.”
He said while some areas may be experiencing a short “lull” at this time, he warned that the “storm is not over.”
“There is this little break right now, but the significant part of the storm is still to come,” he said.
Farnworth said the “full extent” of the damage caused by the storm is yet to be seen.
He said officials are monitoring weather and road conditions across the province.
Farnworth urged the public to avoid unnecessary travel, asking residents to “wait out this storm.”
He also urged residents to follow the directions of their local authorities.
“The latest storm will pass,” he said. “And we will recover.”
ENVIRONMENT CANADA WARNINGS
In an update Wednesday, Environment and Climate Change Canada warning preparedness meteorologist Armel Castellan said more precipitation was expected to hit the region that afternoon.
He said the North Shore and Abbotsford could see up to 40 millimetres of rain.
“Beyond Abbotsford, we expect potentially up to 50 millimetres for Chilliwack and Hope through the evening,” he told a press conference.
Castallan said Coquihalla and areas in the coastal mountains could see another 30 to 40 millimetres.
“Please understand that this event has already seen close to 200 millimetres on the outside coast of Vancouver Island,” he said. “As well as over 100 millimetres in the eastern Fraser Valley and near Squamish and Howe Sound, and there’s still a really good pulse this afternoon into the evening hours before it’s over.”
Castellan said the region won’t see much precipitation Thursday or Friday, but added that officials are tracking a storm forecast to hit the area late on Friday or Saturday.
“It mostly affects the south coast,” he said. “But it is not as potent as these atmospheric rivers are.”
He said rain between 15 to 25 millimetres could be experienced.
“Generally speaking, quite a bit less,” he said.
A number of rainfall warnings from ECCC remained in place across south western B.C., and in the coastal region.
FLOOD WARNINGS AND WATCHES
The B.C. River Forecast Centre has issued flood warnings for the Lower Nicola River, Tulameen River, Similkameen River and Spius Creek areas.
Flood warnings have also been issued for the Coquihalla River, the Chilliwack River and tributaries and the Lower Fraser Valley, including Kanaka Creek, areas near Haney, areas around Hope and other tributaries.
Meanwhile, previously issued flood warnings for the Sumas River and the Sumas Prairie and surrounding area remain in place.
Flood watches have been issued for the South Coast, including Sea-to-Sky and areas around Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton, the Sunshine Coast, Howe Sound, North Shore Mountains and the Lower Mainland.
At 10 a.m. PST, officials in the city of Merritt said the Coldwater River had been upgraded to a flood warning by the province’s River Forecast Centre.
“The city of Merritt EOC is continually watching the gauges both at Brookmere and in town and verifies that data with field observations,” a statement posted to the city’s website reads.
Officials said the system is not expected to impact day access to those who have been evacuated from their homes, but members of the public have been asked to be out of the Phase 3 area by 3 p.m.
“Access tomorrow will be assessed depending on how much precipitation the Coldwater basin takes in and how the river is reacting,” the advisory said.
Officials said crews, contractors and Canadian Armed Forces members “continue to reinforce dikes and critical infrastructure to protect these sites as best as possible.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Merritt Mayor Linda Brown told CTV’s Your Morning, that while the city is still under a boil water advisory, the wastewater treatment plant is able to treat the sewer water again, meaning toilets can be flushed.
According to Brown, residents in two areas evacuated during the first storm have not yet been able to return to their homes.
She said they have had day access only, but have not been permitted to stay overnight.
Brown said officials hope the last group will be allowed back into the community on Friday, weather permitting.
EVACUATION ORDERS AND ALERTS
As the day progressed, evacuation orders began to roll in for the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen “due to the immediate danger to life and property due to flooding along the Similkamen River,” the region’s website states.
Evacuation orders for Electoral Area H and Area B have been issued, with a full list of affected properties available online.
Meanwhile, in the District of Hope, more evacuation alerts have been issued.
A post on the district’s website on Tuesday said another 114 properties along the Coquihalla River were placed on evacuation alert.
“These are only ALERTS to prepare those residents to evacuate your premises or property should it be found necessary,” the website reads.
On Wednesday, the District tweeted that properties along the SilverHope Creek were also being placed on evacuation alert and homeowners were being notified.
A post on the website from Mayor Peter Robb stated that “we have likely seen the worst of the effects of the three atmospheric storms passing through Hope.
“However, we are not out of the woods yet. There is still upstream snow melting that needs to be monitored and will only add to the volume and velocity of the Coquihalla River and Silver-Hope Creek.”
In Abbotsford, a local state of emergency continues.
Evacuation orders have been issued for properties on Lower Sumas Mountain Road and Florence Drive, Glencoe Drive and North Parallel Road, and some other properties on Lower Sumas Mountain Road and Florence Drive are under evacuation alerts.
Landslides in Squamish-Lillooet Regional District have caused evacuation orders to be issued. On Tuesday, Birken-Electoral Area C were told to evacuate due to a landslide at Neff Creek, near Birken.
On Wednesday, another landslide at Jason Creek, near Reid Road, caused an evacuation order to be issued for those in Reid Road - Electoral Area C.
FRASER VALLEY REGIONAL DISTRICT
High flows from the Chilliwack River have caused an evacuation order to be issued for Chilliwack Lake Road and properties near Edwards Road in Electoral Area E.
Chilliwack Lake Road itself is closed to all but essential local traffic due to flooding concerns, but is expected to be opened again by the morning.
The city of Mission, as well as the nearby Hatzic Island, have been dealing with evacuation alerts and flooding concerns.
The Benbow Street sub-division in Hatzic has been under a local state of emergency since Tuesday, as well as an evacuation order. By Wednesday the amount of properties under the evacuation order had risen to 12.
The Everglades Resort on the island has also been issued an evacuation order. Mission itself also has a list of roads closed due to mudslides and overland flooding.
Provincial officials closed Highway 99 between Pemberton and Lillooet as of 4 p.m. on Tuesday due to flooding concerns.
Meanwhile, Highway 3 is closed from the Highway 5 and Highway 3 junction in Hope to the west entrance to Princeton.
Highway 7 is closed from the Murray Street junction in Mission to the Highway 7 junction with Highway 1 in Hope.
There are also closures along Highway 1. More information and a fulsome list of road closures can be found here.
PROVINCIAL STATE OF EMERGENCY
A provincial state of emergency has been extended until Dec. 14.
Farnworth announced the extension on Monday, adding that gasoline rationing will also remain in effect.
Farnworth said extending the province-wide state of emergency will bolster the government’s “response and recovery from the widespread damage already caused by the flooding, while positioning us to take necessary steps in the day ahead.”
With files from Alexandra Mae Jones