British Columbia

'Once in a century' storm has province considering state of emergency

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the province is considering a state of emergency after a 'once in a century' storm led to flooding and mudslides in southern B.C.

Work on highways began Tuesday, with Hwy 3 prioritized in order to provide access to Interior from South Coast

Kayakers paddle down a flooded Trans Canada Highway after flooding in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Work on the highway is set to take days, Transportation Minister Rob Fleming announced at a media briefing on Tuesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the province is considering a state of emergency after a "once in a century" storm led to flooding and mudslides in southern B.C.

Farnworth, who is also the acting premier, made the remarks Tuesday afternoon during an operational briefing, with provincial officials, including representatives from the RCMP and Environment Canada, in attendance.

"Weather specialists are noting that the impact has been significantly greater than expected," he said. "What we're seeing is a natural disaster."

"A provincewide state of emergency is very much on the table."

Farnworth said there would be a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, and that he expected "decisions will be coming out of that cabinet meeting" regarding a state of emergency.

More than 20 evacuation centres are now open throughout the province, including at Hope, Kamloops, and Kelowna.

An access road is being built to connect Hope to the rest of the Lower Mainland,  Farnworth said, even as Highway 1 remains closed due to mudslides and floods.

B.C. Minister of Public Safety and acting Premier Mike Farnworth said the government was considering a state of emergency as the flood situation continues to develop in southern B.C. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

Work to begin on reopening highways

Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said staff were now out on the highway network providing assessments after there was a reprieve from heavy rain on Tuesday. All of the stranded motorists on provincial highways have been rescued, he said.

"With the cessation of the worst weather storm in a century past us, staff have had an opportunity to see firsthand impacts on infrastructure." 

Fleming said Highway 7 between Hope and Agassiz would be open late Tuesday, with staff also prioritizing Highway 3 to ensure access to the Interior from the Lower Mainland is not cut off.

WATCH | Section of Highway 5 compromised by floodwaters:

Coquihalla Highway severely damaged by cascading river

11 months ago
Duration 5:04
The surging Coquihalla River caused a section of Highway 5 to wash away near the Caroline Mine area close to Hope, B.C.

Work will take longer on Highway 5 (the Coquihalla) and Highway 1 (the Trans Canada Highway), with staff confirming five washouts along the Coquihalla and numerous mudslides along Highway 1.

The portion of Highway 1 on Vancouver Island, known as the Malahat, is now open to single-lane traffic at certain sections.

However, it will be closed overnight for the next few days to restore it to full functionality, with B.C. Ferries running four additional sailings during that time.

Highway 12 will also be reopened Tuesday evening, with cleanup work still in progress. Highway 99 remains closed south of Lillooet, in the area where one woman died in a mudslide, with cleanup expected to take a few days.

Farnworth urges patience regarding supply chains

Specialists from the River Forecast Centre and Environment Canada said the forecast for the rest of the week would see river levels dropping and a trend of generally dry weather continuing until the weekend.

Armel Castellan, meteorologist at Environment Canada, said the storm over the weekend saw the wettest 24 hours on record for the communities of Abbotsford, Hope, and Chilliwack.

"[Calculations] point toward a widespread one-in-50 year event, with many locations seeing a one-in-100 year event. That is putting into context how anomalous this event was," he said.

A mobile trailer home is pictured underwater after flooding in Abbotsford. An Environment Canada meteorologist said the region saw the wettest 24 hours in its history over the weekend. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Farnworth defended the government's approach regarding emergency alerts, saying there were numerous alerts on DriveBC and flood warnings sent out to local communities.

"What we saw was an absolutely unprecedented deluge, torrential deluge like we've never seen before," he said. "Significant work was underway. There was a lot that was undertaken."

He also stressed that train links were still open in the province from Kamloops to the rest of Canada, with truck links operational through northern B.C. and Alberta.

"When it comes to supply chains, patience is the word of the day," he said. "There are challenges but also options."

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