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‘Time to prepare is now’: Southern B.C. braces for back-to-back storms


More flooding possible as there is nowhere for even a regular rainfall to go, officials say

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Jessica Armstrong and her husband Kris raced against the clock on Thursday to safeguard their Chilliwack home as the region braced for back-to-back rainstorms.

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With up to 50 millimetres predicted to pummel southwest B.C. by Friday morning, the Armstrongs fear their basement — which is already flooded — might be damaged even more.

“It’s weird to be scared of the rain when you’ve lived on the West Coast your whole life,” said the 35-year-old mother. “We’ve never been afraid of rain, until now.”

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said B.C. residents should be prepared for the arrival of “three big pulses of storms,” including the one Thursday, another on the weekend and the third — and biggest — on Tuesday.

Farnworth said that even routine rainfall could cause already swollen rivers to rise to dangerous heights and he urged residents to prepare for evacuations.

“The time to prepare is now,” he said during a news conference Thursday.

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A reprieve in the wet weather is expected on Friday but then more heavy rain is forecast both Saturday and Sunday, and for the first half of next week.

Farnworth urged people not to travel on highways during these storms but said those who need to should make sure their vehicle carries water, blankets and food.

His appeal came as Highway 1 opened to traffic Thursday afternoon, reconnecting motorists between Abbotsford and Chilliwack and the rest of the province after a weeklong closure. Motorists will still have to wait until at least January for flood repairs to be finished on Highway 5, the Coquihalla freeway.

The province is preparing to close some roads as a precaution as modellers try to predict where and when flooding and mudslides might occur, Farnworth said.

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Helicopters and airplanes are flying over flood-affected areas helping to assess the situation and supply food.


B.C. Flood: Read all our coverage on the Fraser Valley and beyond


Despite the first deluge on Thursday, water levels remained consistent in Sumas Prairie.

“Our dikes are now at a level they were at before,” said Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun, adding that Canadian Armed Forces members will finish repairs on levees by the weekend.

Meanwhile, the scope of the devastation from last week’s storm is coming into a clearer view.

Flood waters surround a farm in Abbotsford, B.C., Tuesday, November 23, 2021.
Flood waters surround a farm in Abbotsford, B.C., Tuesday, November 23, 2021. Photo by JONATHAN HAYWARD /THE CANADIAN PRESS

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said 57 blueberry producers were affected by the flooding, with about 2,100 acres of field underwater. Farmers also lost an estimated 4,000 tonnes of stored vegetables like carrots and Brussels sprouts, while 100 per cent of flower bulb growers in Sumas were affected.

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It is believed all fish at two Fraser Valley fish farms have been lost, as well as a saffron farm, which has been “devastating” for the owners.

“It’s rare that we have to respond to disasters,” said Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne, at the news conference. “We know these shifts are due to global climate change.”

The Armstrongs rushed to action Thursday, digging a moat around their property, clearing their storm drains, installing two sump pumps to move accumulating water from their basement, acquiring a large wet vacuum and blocking off their crawl space with a series of sandbags.

When heavy rainfall caused widespread mudslides and evacuations in the province earlier this month, the Armstrongs worked three days to minimize the storm’s damage damages to their home. Their children, ages four and seven, were sent to their grandparents in Abbotsford while their parents battled the floods.

“It started on Sunday night at 9 p.m. We had four sump pumps running and two wet vacs and the water was still overcoming us,” the mother recalled. “It wasn’t until Wednesday night, Nov. 17 that we were finally able to breathe.”

Armstrong said she knows she’s not out of the woods.

She told Postmedia that the sump pumps, which are turned on by water sensors, had kicked on Thursday for the first time since the mid-November storm.

“We are just at the beginning of this storm front.”

sgrochowski@postmedia.com

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