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Relentless rain causing flooding and road closures across B.C.

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Rain continues to batter British Columbia on Monday, as officials keep a wary eye on rising rivers and road closures.

Rainfall warnings remain in effect across southern B.C., with Environment Canada expecting up to another 50 millimetres for areas that have experienced relentless rain since Saturday.

Mudslides and localized flooding have caused chaos in communities across the province, including the city of Merritt, where all residents were ordered to evacuate at about 10 a.m. PT on Monday.

The City of Merritt also said on Monday that the municipal wastewater treatment plant in the community had failed. Residents were asked not to use water in their homes, including flushing toilets and running taps.

The city has requested that all gas stations remain open for residents now leaving the city. Reception centres are open in Kelowna and Kamloops.

The city of Merritt, whose streets are currently swimming in water, says flooding has caused the municipal wastewater treatment plant to fail. It’s warning all residents not to use water in their homes. (Bailee Allen )

At about midnight Monday morning, the Tulameen River breached the dykes in the town of Princeton, where so far 290 households have evacuated and 100 more are on alert.

Mayor Spencer Coyne said half of the downtown core has flooded and that residents with homes in the area built at ground level have water halfway up their front doors.

“Nobody’s ever seen a flood like this in their collective memories,” said Coyne, who estimates the river was more than 3.5 metres deep when the dykes could no longer contain it.

Princeton residents are under a boil water advisory and are also being asked not to flush toilets to reduce pressure on the local wastewater system.

Flooding in Princeton, B.C., early Monday. (Submitted by Misty Oceanna)

An evacuation order has been issued by the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen for 34 properties, as the Tulameen River continues to rise dangerously high.

The entire Fraser Valley region was placed on flood watch earlier Sunday, including areas around Hope. Rivers through the region, including the Coquihalla and Chilliwack rivers, are expected to remain high through Monday morning, with improvements expected in the afternoon as rainfall eases.

An evacuation order has also been issued for four properties in Electoral Area E in the Chilliwack River Valley. 

Tyler Hamilton, meteorologist with The Weather Network, told CBC News on Monday that an atmospheric river-fuelled storm from the Pacific has “really dug deep into the Fraser Valley.”

He said he expects Hope will have been hit with more than 300 millimetres of rain by Monday afternoon. The community usually gets about 250 millimetres a month at this time of year.

“It’s no wonder we are seeing rock slides, mudslides  — the small creeks and tributaries that feed into the mighty Fraser River are just simply overwhelmed,” Hamilton said.

A homeowner wades through water near her farmhouse during flooding in Abbotsford on Monday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Road conditions and closures

As of Monday morning, there are numerous closures and delays on B.C. highways. They include:

  • Highway 1 between Hope and Spences Bridge
  • Highway 5 between Hope and Merritt
  • Highway 7 between Maple Ridge and Hope
  • Highway 11 between Mission and Abbotsford
  • Highway 3, which is closed in both directions due to a mudslide at Sunshine Valley, about 17 kilometres east of Hope.

Officials believe there are 80 to 100 vehicles trapped on Highway 7 between Hope and Agassiz, with about two to three people in each vehicle.

Adam Wuisman says he’s in one of them and estimates there are up to 300 vehicles stranded around him.

“Everybody’s just pulled off to the side of the road and waiting for some sort of update,” he told CBC’s The Early Edition on Monday morning.

Fire crews responding to a mudslide on Highway 7 near Agassiz, B.C., gather at a command post set up at a nearby gas station on Sunday. (Shane Mackichan)

Wuisman says he and his fiancée have been stuck on that stretch of Highway 7 since 7:30 p.m. Sunday while trying to return to Richmond from Nelson. 

The couple are without emergency supplies, but Wuisman is more concerned about what he says is his precarious position on the highway.

“It’s a hill on one side and the Fraser [River] is just on the other side…. I’m not so concerned about blankets. I’m concerned about the higher hillside coming down on me and the rest of us,” he said.

WATCH | Minister of Public Safety responds to questions about trapped vehicles: 

B.C. minister defends response to travellers stuck in mudslides

British Columbia’s Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth was pressed by reporters to explain the provincial response to residents currently stranded by mudslides near the small community of Agassiz, B.C., in the southern part of the province. 1:47

At a press event on Monday morning, B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said search-and-rescue crews are assessing how best to rescue those trapped. He said air rescue is a possibility, but the current weather poses a challenge.

Paula Cousins, Interior region representative for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, said the Coquihalla Highway from Hope to Merritt had received about 200 millimetres of rain by Monday morning.

She said the ministry plans to assess the Coquihalla corridor through that region by air as soon as possible, saying there are early reports of damage to the highway infrastructure and that it is too soon to say when it will reopen.

Janelle Staite, the ministry’s South Coast regional representative, said “challenging conditions” have also closed sections of Highway 1 on Vancouver Island on the Malahat and near Duncan, as well as Highway 14 east of Sooke.

Sooke Mayor Maja Tait said a sandbag station is open at 2070 Kaltasin Rd. until 4 p.m. Monday.

Road conditions are available at www.drivebc.ca.

Weather forecast

According to Environment Canada, a significant atmospheric river event will continue to bring copious amounts of rain to B.C.’s South Coast on Monday.

The central and eastern Fraser Valley can expect another 50 millimetres on Monday, while areas further west, including Metro Vancouver, are forecast to get another 30 to 40 millimetres. 

The weather agency says as much as 250 millimetres of rain will have soaked the central and eastern Fraser Valley by the end of Monday, with up to 180 millimetres having fallen on the Metro Vancouver, western Fraser Valley, Whistler, Howe Sound, Sunshine Coast and eastern Vancouver Island areas since Saturday.

Alyssa Charbonneau, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said the average monthly rainfall for Vancouver in November is 185 millimetres and she expects to see most of the Metro region reach 200 millimetres by midday Monday.

“This is definitely an extreme event,” she said. “To see places receiving about that … over a two day period is definitely very significant.”

In the B.C. Interior, heavy rain is also forecast for Nicola and the Kootenay Lake region.

Environment Canada also issued a winter storm warning for the Trans-Canada Highway from Eagle Pass to Rogers Pass, where 15 to 25 centimetres of snow is expected Monday.

A fallen tree blocks a road in Vancouver’s West End, at the intersection of Bute and Pacific streets, on Monday morning. Rain is forecast to pound much of the province Monday morning, and Environment Canada has issued a wind warning for Metro Vancouver that could result in more downed trees. (Matt Meuse/CBC)

Half a metre of snow has fallen on the high passes since Saturday, the weather agency said.

Rainfall is expected to taper off across most of the province by Monday afternoon. However, Environment Canada has also issued wind warnings for the Fraser Canyon, Greater Victoria and Metro Vancouver.

Winds are expected to pick up in those areas in the afternoon, with gusts of up to 90 km/h posing a potential risk of road closures and downed power lines.



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