British Columbia

Province warns next 10 days could be 'quite challenging' as more storms set to hit B.C.

Up to 80 millimetres of rain is forecast for Metro Vancouver, Howe Sound, Whistler and the Fraser Valley, starting this morning and continuing until Friday.

Forecasters warn river levels could rise with heavy rainfall, and flooding conditions could worsen

Debris litters a road in the Sumas Prairie flood zone in Abbotsford, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 22. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

THE LATEST:

  • A series of storms in coming days and weeks is raising concerns for communities dealing with roads already impacted by flooding and washouts.
  • Abbotsford residents in Sumas Prairie have been advised not to drink the region's water.
  • British Columbians forced to evacuate due to flooding are now entitled to $2,000 from the Red Cross — in addition to other financial support programs.
  • Canadian Pacific Railway resumed operations through B.C. on Tuesday, and Canadian National Rail plans to resume rail traffic today.
  • Non-essential travel restrictions remain in place for several areas of highway impacted by floods.
  • Restaurants are running out of food and other supplies, which is impacting their bottom line after an already difficult two years.
  • Recycle B.C. is asking residents to hang on to glass and foam packaging as transportation delays have forced a temporary pause on collection

British Columbia is bracing for more rainfall in the coming days and weeks as the province works to rebuild after unprecedented precipitation earlier this month. 

Up to 80 millimetres of rain is forecast for Metro Vancouver, Howe Sound, Whistler and the Fraser Valley, starting this morning and continuing until Friday.

Strong southeast winds near the water are also predicted as part of this weather system, and freezing levels will rise above mountain tops, which could trigger snowmelt and worsen the flooding situation. 

Hay bales are pictured floating in the middle of a street surrounded by floodwaters in the Sumas Prairie flood zone in Abbotsford on Monday. An already dire flooding situation could worsen as heavy rainfall is predicted for the rest of the week. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The River Forecast Centre has issued a high streamflow advisory for the South Coast, including the Fraser Valley and near Hope — both of which have been trying to recover from severe flood damage.

Forecasters expect rivers will rise Thursday as a result of the rainfall. 

Wind, rain and snowfall warnings are in effect for parts of Vancouver Island, the Central Coast and North Coast.

But once that storm passes through, another is set to arrive on the coast on Saturday. 

B.C. Hydro released a statement Wednesday saying it anticipates increased water flow into its South Coast and Vancouver Island reservoirs and a higher risk of power outages this week due to the weather.

Last week's weather also caused power outages as heavy wind and landslides damaged some parts of the province's hydro system; crews are working to replace transmission structures, power lines and wires while heading into the next series of storms.

The utility corporation is asking the public to be prepared in case they lose power in the coming days and to stay 10 metres away from fallen power lines.

"The next nine or 10 days could be quite challenging," Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said during a news conference on Tuesday, as he asked British Columbians to pay close attention to weather forecasts for the coming days.

The flood-ravaged city of Merritt, where some residents are finally returning after floods last week, announced its courthouse would be closed through the next week due to the state of emergency. All those with a court appearance are asked to contact the Kamloops Court Registry.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun is advising residents to prepare an emergency kit ahead of the next storm, and said the city's focus is on preparing for more rain.

During a news conference on Wednesday, Braun thanked those from coast to coast who have contacted him to say that the City of Abbotsford is in their thoughts. 

"Continue to pray for us, because we desperately need it," he said.

Abbotsford water advisory

On Wednesday, Abbotsford replaced a boil water advisory for residents in the Sumas Prairie area with a do not use water advisory.

Toilet flushing is permitted, but the city says there are uncontrollable water main breaches in the region that could allow surface water to affect the supply of drinking water.

The affected area stretches from Angus Campbell Road in the west, to Highway One in the north, the boundary with Chilliwack in the east and to the U.S. border and Old Yale Road in the south. Other parts of Abbotsford are not affected.

The advisory could remain in place for several days.

Floodwaters are shown in the Sumas Prairie flood zone in Abbotsford. (Oliver Walters/CBC)

Braun said although recent dike repairs helped seal off the flow of water into the prairie lake bottom area, they need to continue to pump water out. 

"As you can imagine, this is not clean water," Braun said. "We know there are hazardous and potentially toxic material in these floodwaters, which is why we need to complete an environmental assessment of the area to ensure it is safe."

He said bridges, roads and culverts are being inspected, as is drainage infrastructure. Rapid Damage Assessments also continue to be done to determine when evacuees can return home.

Highways closed for non-essential travel

Highways washed out by floods remain closed, though essential travel is allowed in some areas. 

Transportation Minister Rob Fleming advises people to check highways before heading out on the road, because many are closed for non-essential travel. 

An aerial view shows a damaged road near Lytton, B.C., on Nov. 15. (B.C. Ministry of Transportation/Reuters)

On Tuesday, Highway 7 between Hope and Mission was closed to non-essential travel. However, the definition of essential travel was updated to include charter buses, school buses and public transit vehicles so that people are still able to get to school or work. 

"First rule is, ask yourself, 'Do I need to be out there?' Don't be out there unless it's absolutely essential," Fleming said Tuesday afternoon.

"If you are driving, slow down and follow the direction of traffic control personnel and be patient. It will be slow as you make your commute. If you're heading out of the Lower Mainland, be prepared for winter conditions."

Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (CP) operations between Kamloops and Vancouver resumed Tuesday after flooding and mudslides cut vital supply links last week.

The route is CP's busiest corridor and links the Port of Vancouver to the rest of North America. The first trains arrived in Vancouver Wednesday morning carrying grain and fuel.

Keep recycling at home for now

Road conditions have made it difficult to transport recycling in B.C., which has prompted the organization in charge of recycling to pause collection on some materials. 

Recycle B.C. is asking residents to hang on to their glass and foam, as it has had to temporarily suspend collection from both residential addresses and depots. 

Containers and paper will continue to be collected as usual, because Recycle B.C., says they can be baled and stored more compactly. 

It is unclear how long the collection suspension will last, as the transportation situation in B.C., continues to change.

With files from Winston Szeto, Bridgette Watson and Courtney Dickson

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