Canada’s flood-hit western province braces for more rain

Parts of British Columbia could see ‘the most intense storm yet’, provincial public safety minister warns.

Floodwater a week after rainstorms lashed the western Canadian province of British Columbia, triggering landslides and floods, November 22, 2021 [File: Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters]

Canada’s westernmost province of British Columbia (BC) is bracing for more rain just weeks after heavy downpours triggered flooding and mudslides and forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes.

The province’s public safety minister, Mike Farnworth, told reporters on Tuesday that crews were working to shore up dikes and dams, adding some roads would be closed protectively.

Flooding earlier this month in British Columbia triggered landslides that killed four people, cut off rail access to Vancouver, the country’s largest port, stranded motorists, and caused billions of dollars in damage.

“In some areas … this could be the most intense storm yet,” Farnworth said. “The cumulative effect of this succession of storms will be – and continues to be – a major challenge.”

Environment Canada said on Tuesday morning that 6cm (2.4 inches) of rainfall could be expected through Wednesday in the Metro Vancouver area, while as much as 8cm (3.1 inches) could fall on the province’s Sunshine Coast.

“The third atmospheric river in just under a week will once again give rain heavy at times over the British Columbia south coast. Heavy rain may ease somewhat tonight but will persist through Wednesday as a cold front moves across the region,” the agency said on its website.

“Heavy downpours are likely to cause flash floods and water pooling on roads. Localized flooding in low-lying areas is possible. Don’t approach washouts near rivers, creeks and culverts.”

Officials said parts of the province could expect up to 12cm (4.7 inches) of rain in less than 36 hours starting later on Wednesday.

BC has seen several extreme weather events in recent months, including a record heatwave in the summer that left hundreds dead and destroyed an entire community.

Those blazes may have left hills devoid of vegetation, contributing to the flooding and mudslides, while experts have warned that the climate crisis is making weather events more extreme and frequent.

BC Premier John Horgan declared a state of emergency on November 17 as the province reeled following two days of heavy rainfall at that time. The crisis prompted the federal government in Ottawa to deploy the air force to assist local authorities.

The BC government said on Monday that due to the ongoing effects of the heavy rain, it was extending the provincial state of emergency, as well as an order limiting fuel consumption, until December 14.

Authorities have issued “flood watch” advisories for several parts of the province.

The District of Hope in the Fraser Valley, about 160km (100 miles) east of Vancouver, also declared a local state of emergency and issued one evacuation order on Monday.

Mayor Peter Robb said in a statement that while the amount of rainfall between Tuesday and Thursday was not expected to be as significant as what occurred on November 14 and 15, the risk remained high.

“We are now dealing with highly saturated soils, bank erosion and many local streams that continue to run at high levels,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies