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Next B.C. storm could be as intense as the first: Province

FILE PHOTO - Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Province of B.C.

The next storm expected to hit B.C. this week may be as intense as the first catastrophic weather event that hit the province two weeks ago.

Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth, Minister of Transportation Rob Fleming and officials from the River Forecast Centre, and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Canada provided an update on the province’s response to flooding events, Nov. 28 during a live-streamed press conference.

The provincial update comes after residents of the Huntingdon Village area of Abbotsford were ordered to evacuate this morning and flood watches were issued overnight in the Interior for the Tulameen, Similkameen, Coldwater and Nicola rivers.

"This is historic weather, intensified by climate change,” Farnworth said. “The third in a trio of storms is expected to hit us mid-week and while the varied model forecasts differ, this next storm could be the most intense since the original storm pulse first hit two weeks ago.”

Farnworth warned residents to be prepared for heavy rains that could worsen existing flooding or cause additional floods and asked them to watch for evacuation alerts and orders.

“The depth of water pooling on roads is not always obvious," he said, adding they don’t want accidents to further strain highway resources.

Highway 8 has seen “catastrophic damage.” Large sections of the highway have been “swallowed” by the Nicola River, he said. For First Nations in communities with limited access, Emergency Management B.C. is coordinating food, water and other emergency material.

The province is also deploying integrated support teams to the Shackan Indian Band on Monday and Coldwater Indian Band on Wednesday, Dec. 1, he said.

People evacuated because of flooding can receive $2,000 to help with emergency costs from the province and $2.2 million has already been distributed, he said.

Given the potential impacts to southwestern B.C. for the upcoming storm, the province is prepared to use a broadcast alert through the Alert Ready System to notify residents.

“To everyone living in southwest B.C., now is the time to prepare for heavy rains,” Farnworth said.

Parts of Highways 1, 3 and 99 were closed yesterday and assessments are being done on roadways this morning, Fleming said. No major slides have occurred but smaller issues require highway crews attention.

Trees and minor debris fell on Highway 3, and there was a slide on Highway 1 between Popkum and Hope, and there is water on the roadway in the Boston Bar area, he said. A minor slide also occurred between Pemberton and Lillooet on Highway 99, Fleming said.

The stretch of Highway 7 near Maple Ridge has seen some flooding, and only commercial highway are currently getting through.

“If required, we will preemptively close highways,” he said.

There is no timeframe yet when Highway 3 will reopen but it's an important transportation route, he said.


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