British Columbia

'Our fingers are crossed,' Abbotsford, B.C., mayor says in extending flood state of emergency

The mayor of flood-ravaged Abbotsford, B.C., has extended a state of emergency until Nov. 29 as efforts to combat disastrous flooding ramp up ahead of more rain expected in the coming week.

Local emergency state extended to Nov. 29 despite progress restoring dike and pump station

Sandbags are in place at the Barrowtown Pump Station in Abbotsford, B.C., in a photo posted to the city's Twitter account Sunday. (City of Abbotsford/Twitter)

The mayor of flood-ravaged Abbotsford, B.C., has extended a local state of emergency until Nov. 29 as efforts to combat disastrous flooding ramp up ahead of more rain expected in the coming week.

Mayor Henry Braun hopes wet weather in the forecast will be offset by his city's progress in rebuilding a protective dike and opening the floodgates of a key pump station this weekend.

He said the "monumental" effort to rebuild the dike has reached a point where water from the Sumas River is "no longer flowing" into what was once the Sumas Lake, the former waterway in the area that was drained for farmland a century ago.

But the mayor warned the barrier must still be raised a further three metres and widened to be effective against more water flowing in.

A road and surrounding land remains flooded in the western end of the main flooded area of Sumas Prairie in Abbotsford on Sunday. (Carly Thomas/CBC)

"We need to get this all done before the next weather system," Braun said. "We're going to get 80 to 100 millimetres of water over the next four days. 

"If it's spread out over the next four days, and doesn't come over the border, I'm optimistic. Our fingers are crossed."

For now, no weather warnings are in place for the city, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada; as of Sunday, the agency forecasts, rains could hit in the area around noon PT Monday and continue through next weekend.

But advisories are in place further north in the province, with heavy rains expected in the coming days.

Those could eventually reach already deluged Abbotsford, which Braun said means it is a race against time.

On Sunday morning, Braun toured the Barrowtown Pump Station, where volunteers and deployed soldiers have been building sandbag walls to protect the essential piece of infrastructure and keep water at bay.

The station announced it had fully opened its floodgates as of Sunday, lowering water levels.

"After my visit this morning, I have a whole new appreciation for just how close we came to this disaster being much worse," Braun told reporters. "We came extremely close to losing this absolutely critical piece of infrastructure …  I can't express how vital this pump station is to our community."

Buildings sit surrounded by floodwaters in the Sumas Prairie area of Abbotsford on Sunday. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

The station ensures the former Sumas Lake, which occupied the now-farmland area, does not reform as it did over the past week. Thousands of livestock are reported to have perished, according to authorities, as farmers and volunteers scrambled to rescue as many animals as possible.

The city issued a boil-water advisory for the Sumas Prairie area last Thursday. It remains in effect, but authorities said the rest of the city's water supply is safe to drink.

A car in floodwaters in the disaster-ravaged Sumas Prairie area of Abbotsford on Sunday. ( Yanik Dumont Baron/CBC)

Canadian Armed Forces troops who arrived late this week to assist in recovery efforts helped reinforce sandbag walls. They'll be tasked with helping to clean up debris caused by the disaster, the city said.

The city estimates its emergency reception centres have registered 800 residents who were forced to leave as a result of flooding.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David P. Ball

@davidpball

David P. Ball is a CBC News reporter in Vancouver. Send story tips or ideas to david.ball@cbc.ca, or find him on Twitter @davidpball.

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