British Columbia

Heavy rain in B.C. causes flooding, power outages, traps 500 people at Fraser Valley ski hill

The heavy rain battering B.C.’s South Coast and Vancouver Island has closed roads, flooded homes and knocked out electricity.

Parts of south coast received as much as 140 millimetres of rain over 24 hours, says Environment Canada

The Alouette River in Maple Ridge spilled its banks Friday after heavy rains in the region. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Heavy rain and windy conditions have resulted in emergency situations, power outages, road closures and flood warnings around the South Coast.

A mudslide blocking one kilometre of Hemlock Valley Road near the Sasquatch Mountain ski hill north of Agassiz has stranded about 500 people at the resort which also lost power due to high winds.

The slide which occurred Friday night in the eastern Fraser Valley is not expected to be cleared for up to six days, according to a Saturday afternoon new release from B.C.'s Minister of Transportation.

'We're pretty much at the mercy of mother nature," said Shelby Lim with the resort, which is running on back-up power.

The route is also the only available exit for residents of the Hemlock Valley community. Provincial officials are advising them to stay home. 

Northeast of Harrison Hot Springs, Rockwell Drive is closed between Dogwood Lane and Rockwell Lane due to a washout, with no possible detour. The provincial government said in a news release it is working with the District of Kent to evacuate trapped residents. A state of emergency was declared in the district Saturday evening because of the flooding, landslides and rockfall damage. Some residents in the Rockwell Drive area have been issued evacuation notices.

The district says the public should stay away from the area to allow emergency crews to repair the damaged area. 

Environment Canada says the precipitation was part of the same intense low pressure system that's been delivering heavy rain since Thursday evening.

It says parts of the south coast have received between 120 and 140 millimetres of rain in the past 24 hours.

'Mercy of mother nature'

On Saturday morning, the Cowichan Valley Regional District on Vancouver Island declared a state of emergency because flooding cut off transportation routes and caused some residents to flee their homes.

 

In Port Coquitlam the flooding was so intense that the city opened an emergency social services centre for displaced residents, and offered sand bags to help homeowners contain encroaching water.

On Saturday, 15,000 customers lost power in Chilliwack after power lines came down due to the weather. BC Hydro is scrambling to restore power to thousands of other customers across the Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island.

Rainfall warnings issued by Environment Canada for multiple areas across the province were lifted by mid-morning on Saturday.

Highway closures

Drive BC says there are multiple highway closures across the region due to heavy rain and other problems.

Highway 1 is closed in both directions between Lytton and Yale and from Spences Bridge to 19 kilometres south of Cache Creek.

Highway 1 is also affected in two locations on Vancouver Island. The southbound lanes of Highway 1 are closed outside of Victoria due to a mudslide between Wellswood Road and Finlayson Arm Road, located between Langford and Goldstream Park. Flooding has reduced the roadway at McKenzie Avenue in Saanich.

Highway 5 was closed in both directions six kilometres north of Hope to Merritt due to debris on the roadway, but southbound lanes have reopened.

Highway 97 is closed in both directions nine kilometres south of Clinton due to a rock slide.

Highway 12 is closed in both directions in Lillooet due to a mudslide at Airport Road.

There were reports Saturday morning that the road to Bamfield, also on Vancouver Island, was washed out. Western Forest Products had advised motorists to stay off the road on Friday until rain subsided.

Click here for a full, updated list of Drive BC closures.

Flood warnings

The heavy rains have triggered flood watches and warnings for Metro Vancouver, parts of the Fraser Valley, and the south and western regions of Vancouver Island.

B.C.'s River Forecast Centre says river levels in those areas continue to rise and could exceed the river banks.

On Saturday the centre issued a flood warning for south and west Vancouver Island, asking people to stay away from fast-moving rivers and potentially unstable river banks.

A flood warning means river levels have exceeded their banks and are expected to flood of adjacent areas.

The centre also issued a less severe flood watch alert for eastern Vancouver Island, Metro Vancouver and the North Shore saying that stream are rising and may spill their banks.

The centre expects flows to gradually recede through the weekend.

Avalanche danger

Meanwhile, all that rain on the coast is snow in B.C.'s Interior and southern Alberta.

An avalanche bulletin has been posted for Jasper National Park, with a danger rating of extreme from the alpine to below the treeline. The warning continues through to Sunday and indicates that natural and human-triggered avalanches are certain.

The avalanche rating is high for several mountain ranges in B.C.'s southern Interior, the northern Rockies and South Coast Inland.

Drive BC said that Highway 1 between Revelstoke and Golden was closed due to high avalanche hazard. It is expected to reopen at 2 p.m. PT.

With files from Canadian Press

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