British Columbia

Highway 1 reopens through the Fraser Valley

The province reopened Highway 1 through the Fraser Valley at 2 p.m. on Thursday.

Province launches emergency flood support phone line to help residents impacted by flooding

Sumas Prairie main flood zone from the closed section of Highway 1 in Abbotsford on Sunday. (Carly Thomas/CBC)

Highway 1 through the Fraser Valley reopened at 2 p.m. PT on Thursday after being closed for more than a week, but traffic is not back to normal.

The Ministry of Transportation said drivers are asked "to stay off Highway 1 through Abbotsford unless necessary."

"Drivers can expect slow traffic with reduced speed limits," according to a statement from the province.

The highway — the main thoroughfare between the Lower Mainland and the rest of B.C. — had been closed ever since extreme rains caused flooding along several sections in Abbotsford.

It is vital for the transportation of goods in the province and was a significant factor in the supply chain crunch affecting much of southern B.C.

"We know people in this region need to travel around," said Rob Fleming, the minister of transportation and infrastructure at a news conference Wednesday.

"This will provide significant relief."

Highway 1 in Abbotsford seven days ago on Nov. 17, 2021, after major flooding. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

New flood contact centre

The province has launched a new emergency support phone line to help those who have been affected by the floods and landslides.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says the contact centre will be able to help connect people with disaster financial aid, mental health support and emergency response support, among other resources.

"The province will be here and will continue to provide the emergency supports that people need," he said.

"These are complicated and dynamic times."

Farnworth says the line will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily and people can contact the centre toll free by calling 1-833-376-2452.

More rain arrives on South Coast

More storms, including at least three atmospheric rivers, are headed for B.C.'s South Coast with up to 80 millimetres of rain expected in some parts of the province. 

The first one arrived Thursday.

Environment Canada has warned that it could worsen flooding and create conditions for more mudslides. 

"We are still in uncharted territory when it comes to these storms," said Farnworth, adding that there have been almost a dozen atmospheric rivers since mid-September.

"Having several destructive storms in a row is not anywhere near normal."

Because the ground is already saturated, even minor storms can cause rivers and streams to rise faster and potentially flood.

He says Environment and Climate Change Canada modellers are working hard to determine where the storms will hit. Crews, he says, continue to repair the Sumas Prairie ahead of the adverse weather.

Hay bales float in the middle of a street surrounded by floodwaters in the Sumas Prairie flood zone in Abbotsford, B.C. on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Multi-agency Indigenous response teams

Indigenous communities around B.C. were also heavily impacted by the flooding and mudslides. 

Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister Murray Rankin says many of these communities are also isolated, which can make accessing resources during emergencies a challenge.

In response, Rankin says the province, along with the First Nations Emergency Services Society, the First Nations Health Authority and Indigenous Services Canada has assembled Integrated Indigenous Response and Recovery Deployment teams, which, he says, will include staff from each agency.

"We must improve our communications with First Nations communities in advance of and during emergencies," he said.

"And we can ensure the support provided ... meets the needs identified by the communities themselves."

Livestock death toll

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham says it's difficult to determine exactly how many farm animals were killed during the floods as some farmers still aren't able to conduct barn counts due to ongoing flooding and damage.

Community members struggle to rescue stranded cattle from a farm after rainstorms caused flooding and landslides in Abbotsford., B.C., no Nov. 16, 2021. (Jesse Winter/Reuters)

But, she says the B.C. Dairy Association has estimated a loss of around 500 cattle. Popham says there are also thousands of poultry and about 20,000 hogs that have died.

She says she expects to have exact numbers in the next week or so.

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