British Columbia

B.C. imposes travel and fuel restrictions as rebuild begins after historic floods

As B.C. begins to recover from the catastrophic flooding and mudslides that destroyed critical infrastructure, highways and farmland this week, supply chain issues have led provincial officials to impose limits on gas purchases and non-essential travel.

Members of the general public in flood-affected areas will be limited to 30 litres of gas per visit

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THE LATEST:

  • B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth imposed an order limiting gas purchases and travel along damaged highways on Friday.

  • More than 100 Canadian Armed Forces personnel have landed in Abbotsford, B.C., east of Vancouver, to help with emergency operations in the flood-ravaged Fraser Valley area.

  • A levee that was planned to be constructed will no longer go ahead, Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun has confirmed. Military personnel will now focus on repairing a dike ahead of the next expected rainfall.

  • Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said the province is receiving aid from other jurisdictions to help farmers and ranchers in the Fraser Valley.

  • Highway 7 from Vancouver to Hope, B.C., was opened to essential travel, with 1,000 people stranded in Hope making their way home on Thursday.

  • For a list of up-to-date flood warnings, visit the River Forecast Centre.

As British Columbia begins to recover from the catastrophic flooding and mudslides that destroyed critical infrastructure, highways and farmland this week, supply chain issues have led provincial officials to impose limits on gas purchases and non-essential travel.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced the measures under the province's state of emergency at a news conference on Friday. The order means members of the public in flood-ravaged areas will be limited to 30 litres of fuel per visit to the gas station.

The emergency order covers drivers in the Lower Mainland-to-Hope region, the Sea-to-Sky region, the Sunshine Coast, the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island. It will be in effect until Dec. 1.

Essential vehicles, including commercial trucks, infrastructure repair vehicles and health-care transportation, will be exempt from the order.

Farnworth said the order includes requirements for gas retailers to make sure their supply lasts until Dec. 1, and that the province will be working with them to make sure that happens. Gas stations and wholesale distributors will also be prohibited from price gouging, and customers who are abusive, threatening or belligerent with employees can be fined.

A boat goes under an overpass as it speeds along what was once Highway 1 in Abbotsford, B.C. Some highways have reopened in the province, but an order limiting travel on them has now been issued. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Travel restricted on damaged highways

As part of the order, non-essential traffic was also restricted on the province's highway network, which continues to constrain travel and supply flow to and from Metro Vancouver.

The highways where non-essential travel has been restricted include:

  • Highway 99: From the junction of Highway 99 and Lillooet River Road to the B.C. Hydro Seton Lake campsite access in Lillooet.
  • Highway 3: From the junction of Highway 5 and Highway 3 in Hope to the west entrance to Princeton from Highway 3.
  • Highway 7: From the junction of Highway 7 and Highway 9 in Agassiz to the junction of Highway 7 and Highway 1 in Hope.

More than 1,000 people who were stranded in the community of Hope, east of Vancouver, have been reunited with their families after an overnight train on Wednesday night and the reopening of Highway 7 to essential traffic.

Part of Highway 1 on Vancouver Island, known as the Malahat, was also reopened ahead of time. Highway 3 east of Hope was also reopened as of Friday afternoon.

B.C. Transportation Minister Rob Fleming also said limited travel might soon be possible on Highway 99, where one person lost their life in a mudslide. RCMP said four other people were reported missing along the highway.

A commanding officer talks to soldiers gathered at the Abbotsford airport. More than 100 soldiers have arrived in B.C.'s Fraser Valley region to assist with emergency management. (Francois Joly/CBC)

Soldiers helping to rebuild dikes in Fraser Valley

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to help British Columbians recover from the flood, including with military assistance. More than 14,000 residents were still out of their homes as of Friday afternoon.

Trudeau said 120 members of the Canadian Armed Forces have been dispatched to Abbotsford, B.C., one of the worst-hit areas, and another 350 members are standing by in Edmonton. Soldiers have rescued about 300 people, Trudeau told a news conference after the North American Leaders' Summit in Washington

On Friday, military members were set to help construct a 2.5-kilometre flood levee in Abbotsford.

But at an afternoon news conference, Braun said that option was no longer being considered. The levee was to be built to stop water from spilling across the Trans Canada Highway, but water levels equalized on both sides.

WATCH | Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledges support for B.C.:

Trudeau says 120 soldiers are on the ground in Abbotsford, B.C.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provided a late-night update on the federal government's support for British Columbia, which is currently in a state of emergency. 1:14

Military personnel will now focus on repairing a damaged dike ahead of the next anticipated rainfall on Monday. Braun said he anticipates the whole dike may need to be rebuilt to a higher standard. He said while he had hoped water levels would recede by two feet, they have so far only receded by about six inches.

"There's predicted 80 to 100 millimetres of rain coming next week, beginning Tuesday,'' he said Thursday. "That's what I'm concerned about if we don't fix those breaches.''

Braun said the price tag for fixing the damaged infrastructure in the community of 120,000 could reach $1 billion.

Ranchers and farmers in B.C.'s Fraser Valley have been particularly hard hit by floods, with the region containing half of the province's dairy farms. Many of those farms are in Abbotsford, with hundreds of farms flooded in the low-lying Sumas Prairie region east of the city.

Farmers carry their livestock out of a flooded barn in Abbotsford. The city southeast of Vancouver is home to half of B.C.'s dairy farms and has been hit badly by the devastating floods. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Friday school closures in the Fraser Valley include all schools in the Fraser Cascade School District and Chilliwack School District, as well as Barrowtown, Matsqui and Upper Sumas elementary schools in Abbotsford.

The floods were triggered by historic rainfall on the weekend, as more than 20 daily rainfall records were shattered across the province.

A person paddles a kayak past a submerged taxi after the major flood event in Abbotsford. More federal assistance is on its way to the province as reconstruction begins. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Other jurisdictions to help B.C.'s animals

Popham said other provinces and Washington state have also offered to send resources to help the province's farm animals. "Some feed at the Port of Vancouver that was destined to go to China will be re-routed to the Valley," she said.

Many animals were trapped in barns without clean food or water, and owners were ordered to evacuate without their animals in tow. A total of 959 farms are on evacuation order throughout the province.

Popham had said earlier in the week that thousands of animals had perished in the floods. On Thursday, she said the province was using helicopters to drop water and aid isolated farmers; 35 veterinarians are also on standby to help.

There has been tension between police trying to protect people from dangerous conditions and farmers trying to reach their barns, Popham said, as she called on everyone to respect the evacuation orders that are in place.

READ MORE:

  • Farnworth said the province would start using the national Alert Ready system "next spring" or "next summer" after criticism from residents and numerous natural disasters this year.
  • A resident of the small community of Yarrow, B.C., has recounted how he and his puppy made a terrifying escape from rapidly approaching floodwaters.
  • The province has announced financial support for those affected by the floods. The deadline to apply is Feb. 12, 2022.

Anyone placed under evacuation order should leave the area immediately.

To find an evacuation centre close to you, visit the Emergency Management B.C. website.

Evacuees are encouraged to register with Emergency Support Services online, whether or not they access services at an evacuation centre.

Road conditions can be checked at DriveBC.

With files from Bethany Lindsay

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