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‘This storm is not over’: Officials urge caution as B.C.’s 3rd atmospheric river continues

More rain expected to hit province on Wednesday
Highway 3 is shown between Hope and Princeton on Nov. 17, 2021. (Ministry of B.C. Transportation and Infrastructure)

Provincial officials on Wednesday (Dec. 1) urged British Columbians to remain cautious and avoid being out on the roads in storm-affected areas.

“We are in the midst of this third intense storm and I know that in some parts of the Lower Mainland and here in Victoria, there is a bit of a lull,” said Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth in what has now become a series of daily emergency media briefings.

“But I want to make it clear to everyone: this storm is not over. There’s this little break right now but the significant part of the storm is still to come throughout the rest of the day.”

Multiple evacuation alerts and orders have been issued for flood-affected parts of the province in the past 24 hours as the third atmospheric river in a week has hit the province. Those areas include more than 100 homes in Hope that were put on evacuation alert and an evacuation order for Birken, a community north of Pemberton.

“We all need to avoid unnecessary travel right now and wait out the storm,” Farnworth said, adding that those who are told to evacuate must do so, or call 911 if they cannot get out.

A total of $5.8 million has been sent to flood-affected households through a donation-matching partnership between the feds, B.C. and the Canadian Red Cross but Farnworth said that much of the damage wreaked by this storm is yet unknown.

Supply chain moving, slowly

Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said that Highway 3, a vital link between the coast and the interior of the province remains open to essential traffic, with more than 5,000 trucks able to get through with commercial goods.

An additional 1,200 trucks have taken a route through northern Washington and Canadian Pacific freight trains are continuing to run.

“We need to keep key highway corridors open for the supply chain that British Columbians depend on,” Fleming said. “There are communities that are experiencing shortages (and) these trucks getting through are critically important.”

READ MORE: ‘Not out of the woods yet,’ says Hope mayor as third atmospheric river passes

Highway 99 between Pemberton and Lillooet was closed preemptively on Tuesday ahead of this third storm, Fleming said, but opened shortly following the press conference. A slide last month on that highway killed multiple people, including a couple who left behind a two-year-old girl.

Highway 1 remains closed between Abbotsford and Chilliwack, between Popkum and Hope and between Boothroyd and Spences Bridge.

Highway 7 is open to essential traffic again after a slide and a car crash.

More rain expected

Environment Canada meteorologist Armel Castellan said that while B.C. is currently experiencing a “lull” in the middle of its third atmospheric river within a week, more rain is expected.

The Howe Sound, North Shore Mountains and Abbotsford are expected to receive an additional 40 millimetres, while Chilliwack and Hope could get as many as 50 millimetres of rain. Boston Bar is forecast to get another 30 to 40 millimetres.

READ MORE: B.C.’s year of extreme weather ‘consistent’ with climate change, meteorologist says

Castellan said that the amount of precipitation being dumped on B.C. is compounded by the heat brought in by the atmospheric river, which has broken heat records and pushed freezing levels upwards. Freezing levels currently are above 3,000 metres, which is above the mountaintops.

“Many records are being broken today for these temperatures and yesterday, perhaps even record breaking temperatures for any day in December,” he said “So very, very warm up high, a lot of snow melt, in addition to what we’re seeing in terms of precipitation.”

‘Fairly challenging conditions’ anticipated around many rivers

The River Forecast Centre said there is a potential to see higher river flows as more rain hits this afternoon and evening.

“Trough the south coast is really where we’ve seen quite significant rapid rising rivers, particularly around the Howe Sounds Fraser Valley areas and are anticipating fairly challenging river conditions through the eastern side of the Fraser Valley,” said David Campbell. “We’ve also seen spillover of rainfall going into the interior watersheds and expecting ongoing challenging river conditions into the Tulameen River down into Princeton as well as the Coldwater River into Merritt tributaries.”

The U.S. Nooksack River, which has been flooding Abbotsford, is continuing to rise, albeit at a lower level than predicted.

“So the risks for overflow spill seem to be reduced on the Nooksack River into the Sumas River,” Campbell said, adding that the U.S. National Weather Service has dropped a flood watch for the area.

Campbell said that while conditions will remain challenging throughout Wednesday, the weather is expected to dry out into Thursday and give rivers a reprieve from the near-constant rain that’s plagued much of the province in recent days.

READ MORE: Flood warnings issued for several B.C. rivers, dozens of weather warnings in effect


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