Flood and avalanche risks rise as heavy rain and wind hit B.C. South Coast
50-100 mm of rain expected as remnants of California storm head north
Rain and wind warnings cover much of Vancouver Island and the inner South Coast as the remnants of a storm that brought flooding to California now hammers southern British Columbia.
Environment Canada estimates total rainfall of 50 to 100 millimetres before conditions ease Friday.
The weather office warns heavy downpours can spawn flash floods, while winds gusting to 90 km/h over northern Vancouver Island and the Greater Victoria region could cause damage or power outages.
Avalanche Canada says the storm will create "very dangerous avalanche conditions" on coastal and Vancouver Island mountains and has raised the avalanche risk to "high" in those areas.
It warns that up to 35 centimetres of new snow has fallen since Monday, covering a deeply buried thin and breakable crust and it urges backcountry users to avoid avalanche terrain during the ongoing storm.
The River Forecast Centre has posted high streamflow advisories across Vancouver Island, Howe Sound, Sunshine Coast, Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley, saying downpours and rising freezing levels will raise the potential for low-lying flooding before waterways peak Friday.
On Vancouver Island, B.C. Hydro says heavy rains have raised reservoir levels at the Comox Dam, and it's now releasing extra water into the Puntledge River. The utility is asking people in the Courtenay-Comox area not to go near the river for the next week or so.
B.C. Hydro's Steven Watson said excess water is being released at "up to five times the normal flow rate." He says sirens and temporary signage are in place along the river, and there's a risk of localized flooding in the region before B.C. Hydro reduces the water flow during Friday morning's high tide.
Meanwhile, emergency shelter operators on the island say doors are open for vulnerable people stuck in the heavy rain. The Port Alberni Shelter Society says it's Overdose Prevention Site, at 3699 Third Ave. and its Sobering Centre, at 3628 Fifth Ave. were open as shelter sites on Thursday.
With files from Adam van der Zwan