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Heavy storms headed for southwest B.C., threatening recovery from floods and landslides



As B.C. moves forward on recovering from severe flooding that forced the evacuation of thousands last week, another series of storms is in the forecast, which could set progress back. 

Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologist Armel Castellan says several storms are headed for the southwest part of the province, the first of which is expected on Thursday. Though rainfall won’t be quite as significant as it was last week, Castellan said it could “exacerbate the vulnerabilities on the ground currently.”

Environment Canada is forecasting up to 80 millimetres of rain for the North Shore mountains and Howe Sound, as well as the Fraser Valley, which has already endured extreme flooding.

A snowfall warning is in effect for the Coquihalla Highway between Hope and Merritt, which is currently closed due to damage sustained during the Nov. 13-15 storm. Up to 30 centimetres of snow could fall in the region by noon on Tuesday. 

Another storm is forecast for Saturday afternoon.

All this rainfall will be falling on land that is already saturated, which could mean a greater likelihood of water running downhill and causing mudslides and flooding.

Some Merritt residents to return home today

The City of Merritt put out a plan outlining how and when residents can return home after they were ordered to leave on Nov. 15 when the city was consumed by flood waters.

The first evacuation order is expected to be lifted at noon, and people who live north of the local RCMP detachment will be allowed to begin to head home.

Services will be limited in Merritt as the return progresses, and residents will be on a boil water notice, meaning all water must be boiled before being consumed. Additionally, the city will remain on an evacuation alert. 

Some residents, however, may not be able to return to their properties for an extended period. Some properties south of Nicola Avenue, the plan says, were affected by flooding and others were not, so evacuation orders will be lifted on a block-by-block basis. 

Dozens of properties in Abbotsford’s Sumas Prairie neighbourhood remain on evacuation order. Another three properties were put on evacuation alert Monday evening, and two were ordered to evacuate.

Rail returning midweek

Canadian Pacific Railway said it planned to reopen its line between Kamloops and Vancouver on Tuesday, but CP’s CEO cautioned the next 10 days will be critical as the company moves toward returning to full service.

CP said it would work closely with customers and terminals to clear backlogs and get freight moving efficiently again.

Canadian National issued a statement saying the railway plans to restore limited service over flood-affected track by Wednesday “barring any unforeseen issues.”

Supply chain troubles, including a precautionary closure of the Trans Mountain pipeline, have led to some shortages.

The B.C. government said Monday that gas rationing would be in effect across the Lower Mainland, the Sunshine Coast and parts of southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

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