The latest on B.C. flooding, recovery efforts on Nov. 24 | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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The latest on B.C. flooding, recovery efforts on Nov. 24

Crews repairing Highway 1 near Jackass Mountain after flooding and mudslides damaged the road, Nov. 23, 2021.
Image Credit: TWITTER/TranBC

As some evacuees start to make their way back to Merritt, some still have not received their emergency support services, and the City of Merritt is advocating for change at the provincial level.

Around 2,500 evacuees sought support in Kamloops on Monday, inundating the volunteers at the Emergency Support Services reception centre, and the backlogs forced some to sleep in their cars out of concern they would not have hotel bookings reimbursed.

At a Nov. 24 press conference, Mayor Linda Brown said she has had conversations with the minister in charge of emergency management, who then promised those evacuees would have hotel bookings paid back retroactively.

"If (Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth) could do that, I had a whole lot of questions for how we can address this moving forward," Brown said, which will mean more conversations in the future to potentially address how the province works with municipalities during natural disasters.

READ MORE: B.C. braces for storms as it is in 'uncharted territory': public safety minister

The City of Merritt is bringing home some residents who can access basic services, with fire department access to water and functioning sewage at top of mind.

The wastewater treatment plant is fully operational now, but sewage lines are damaged, including some filled with silt, gravel and boulders in some places. Staff are continuing to assess the damage, and the City is unable to project a cost yet as the work continues.

Along with sewage services coming back online, power has been restored to many homes through B.C. Hydro and FortisBC.

However, after assessments of homes throughout the city, over 400 FortisBC customers need repairs to their homes before natural gas can be restored, along with electrical repairs for 128 B.C. Hydro customers.

In order to keep power online for the city, staff ultimately had to reroute a portion of the Coldwater River that cut through a residential street.

Eighty percent of the water running over Pine Street has been rerouted, but only temporarily, in order to protect a critical transmission line, according to chief administrative officer Sean Smith.

READ MORE: Merritt to use massive 170 m blow-up dam to temporarily move river back after flood

Other services are returning to Merritt, including the emergency department at Nicola Valley Hospital.

Interior Health said it will be reopened on Nov. 29 from 12 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Starting the next day, it will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., seven days a week.

At the Nov. 24 press conference, an Interior Health spokesperson said their facilities have not been damaged by the flooding, but the same cannot be said for other facilities.

Four School District 58 buildings have been damaged by flooding, including three schools and the district administrative building.

The three damaged schools include classes for two-thirds of students in the district.

READ MORE: Former Kamloops care aide pleads guilty after leaving elderly woman emaciated

In the Fraser Valley, Highway 1 is expected to reopen Nov. 25 through the Fraser Canyon to reconnect the Lower Mainland with the rest of the Trans-Canada.

Minister Farnworth said in a Nov. 24 that crews are continuing to remove debris from the roadway, but temporary measures are expected to allow the highway to be used for essential travel.

Meanwhile, Canadian Pacific reopened its tracks through the Fraser Canyon, reconnecting critical Canadian trade routes that go to the country's largest port in Vancouver.

Farnworth said the Province is not prepared to estimate when the Coquihalla Highway might be reopened, even with temporary repairs. Highway 8, connecting Merritt to the Thompson Canyon, is still being assessed to determine whether temporary repairs are possible.

Highway 3 continues to be the only route for semi trucks to pass between the Lower Mainland and the Interior, but due to mudslides, some areas are reduced to single lane traffic, according to DriveBC.

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Another storm system is expected to move into B.C. bringing more precipitation, but the Coldwater River flows are expected to be less than half of what was seen on Nov. 15. Still, the City of Merritt is assessing dykes and preparing for high flood levels in case those projections are underestimated.

The recurring atmospheric rivers are expected to hit the Lower Mainland the hardest, including Abbotsford, and Farnworth said anyone living in flood plain areas should be prepared to evacuate if needed.

"These storms are coming at a time when we're already grappling with some of the most destructive weather we've ever seen," Farnworth said.

Those whose homes were flooded last week are eligible for a $2,000 grant from the Canadian Red Cross and the Province.

For more information about disaster relief, see the provincial website here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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