British Columbia

Residents on B.C. coast warned to prepare for heavy wind, rain, possible outages after drought

Experts are warning British Columbians near the coast to be prepared for strong winds and heavy rain on Thursday, both of which could bring down trees weakened by drought.

Trees have been weakened by long drought and could be more likely to fall, B.C. Hydro says

A pedestrian with an umbrella near the City Centre Library in Surrey, B.C., on Friday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Experts are warning British Columbians near the coast to be prepared for strong winds and heavy rain on Thursday as an atmospheric river packing "narrow bands of heavy precipitation'' heads west.

Environment Canada has a series of weather alerts in place for parts of the province. A special weather statement said Metro Vancouver and Howe Sound will see intense rain on Thursday as a cold front moves across the region.

It's possible the area will see up to 60 millimetres of rain, the notice read.

Further north, a wind warning is in place for the Central Coast and Chilcotin regions. Winds gusting up to 110 km/h will arrive over exposed sections of the coast on Wednesday evening as part of the same cold front.

A rainfall warning is also in effect for inland sections of the North Coast, with up to 70 millimetres in the forecast.

A bulletin issued by the B.C. Ministry of Public Safety said an influx of rain can cause flooding after a period of drought, although extreme weather — such as the disastrous rains last November — is not in the forecast.

The ministry says the River Forecast Centre is monitoring weather patterns and river conditions for flood hazards, while Emergency Management B.C. is working with communities to prepare for possible floods.

People in low-lying areas are being told to prepare for possible flooding by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground and making a grab-and-go bag with essentials for each member of their household if they are forced to evacuate.

B.C. Hydro asks residents to prepare

The change from recent drought conditions has prompted B.C. Hydro to warn residents to be prepared for weather-related power outages this autumn and winter.

"Conditions this year are similar to those in 2015 and 2018 when storms caused significant power outages due to situations that were made worse by drought conditions," a statement read. 

"Trees that have been impacted by the drought will not show immediate visible effects. However, drought conditions have impacted the small structural roots that provide trees with stability, making them more susceptible to wind of any speed."

The utility said falling trees and poor weather cause more than half of all power outages in B.C.

The province warned residents earlier this month to prepare for flooding because prolonged dry weather or drought can increase runoff and river flows.

Dry soil doesn't absorb water as well, it said, so people living near rivers or streams need to monitor the weather and river conditions closely during the transition to wet weather.

Residents should have an emergency kit ready with a flashlight, extra batteries, a first aid kit, non-perishable foods and bottled water. They should also remember to stay 10 metres back from downed power lines, which are considered an emergency, to be reported to 911.

With files from The Canadian Press

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