British Columbia

Supply chains getting back on track as B.C. officials warn weather could derail flood recovery

Provincial ministers say goods and services are starting to move as railways and roads begin to reopen, while also warning British Columbians to prepare for more stormy weather in the days and weeks to come.

The province has been in a state of emergency since Nov. 17

People load sand bags to try and stop the rising flood waters near Abbotsford, B.C., Friday, Nov. 19, 2021. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

B.C. government officials say goods and services are once again moving in the province after supply chains were severed due to extreme flooding, though there is potential that incoming bad weather could derail progress.

The updates were provided during a news conference Monday, one week after relentless rain caused rivers in the southern part of British Columbia to breach their banks, resulting in mudslides, washed out highways, and mass evacuations in the Fraser Valley, Merritt and Princeton.

In the wake of criticism that the province did not do enough to warn people about the extreme weather event, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the province will be working with partner agencies in the coming days to keep people informed. Heavy rain is in the forecast for the Fraser Valley Wednesday through Friday.

Canada Post announced Monday it will be offering free mail forwarding for up to a year for people in Merritt, where mail delivery has been entirely suspended since last week. Free forwarding is also being offered to people in parts of Abbotsford, Quilchena and the Yarrow area of Chilliwack.

According to CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe, the rain coming this week to the province's southern coast will last longer than the rain event that caused chaos last week. The affected area could see up to 100 millimetres by the weekend.

Environment Canada also issued a snowfall alert for the Fraser Valley Monday and a series of warnings and special weather statements for the northern half of the province, primarily for dangerously strong winds and snowfall.

Sections of highway reopening

The alerts come the same day sections of Highway 1 opened in Abbotsford.

According to the Ministry of Transportation, the highway is now open between Highway 1 East to Cole Road to provide emergency access to agricultural operations in the area.

Getting corridors open to the Lower Mainland is a number one priority, said Transportation Minister Rob Fleming Monday morning, noting that progress has already been made with the opening of Highway 1 east of Chilliwack and Highway 99  north of Pemberton.

Debris and abandoned cars are pictured on Highway 1 after a major flood in Abbotsford, B.C., on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"Essential goods and services are moving again," said Fleming.

But the minister noted there is a lot of work ahead, with no timeline in sight for the permanent restoration of Highway 5 that Fleming says could take many months.

Canadian Pacific Railway announced it will be reopening its railway between Kamloops and Vancouver by midday Tuesday. A statement from CP said it needed "hundreds" of employees and contractors to fix damage to more than 30 of its sites after last week's storm.

Province in state of emergency

The B.C. government declared a state of emergency on Nov. 17 after last week's weather caused widespread damage in the southern part of the province. The Canadian Armed Forces have been sent in to assist with flood recovery.

Countless volunteers have also worked around the clock to rescue people, pets and livestock.

Farnworth announced Friday that members of the general public in affected areas will be limited to 30 litres of gas per visit until Dec. 1 to ensure essential vehicles have enough fuel for recovery work.

Federal Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough says residents displaced or left unemployed due to the flooding should apply for employment insurance immediately, even if they normally wouldn't qualify.

On Monday, Farnworth said the province has asked the federal government to waive the one-week waiting period usually in place before people can apply for employment insurance benefits.

With files from The Canadian Press and Bridgette Watson


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