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Avoid travel, warns B.C. minister as rainfall, snowmelt threaten further flooding

A series of storms battering British Columbia has prompted the province to stage equipment across several highways in anticipation of more flooding and landslides.

A series of storms battering British Columbia has prompted the province to stage equipment across several highways in anticipation of more flooding and landslides.

“Consider restricting your travel because we’ve got significant weather events on the way,” said Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming Friday. “We don’t know how hard they’re going to hit.”

The first of three rainstorms had cleared by Friday morning and the Nooksack River, which flows over the border from the U.S. and still poses a risk to Abbotsford’s Sumas Prairie, peaked Thursday night. 

The south coast of B.C. has a roughly 24-hour window before the next storm hits, said Dave Campbell, head of B.C.'s River Forecast Centre. 

Campbell said his team is actively monitoring conditions on the Nooksack River. By Sunday, he said there is a heightened risk it could lead to overland flooding as the next storm rolls in.

The biggest concern, Campbell added, is a third atmospheric river system drawing significant moisture across the Pacific from the Philippines. That could hit the B.C. coast as early as Tuesday, though where it will make landfall is not yet clear.

The storm that brought between 50 and 90 millimetres of rain to southern B.C. over the last 36 hours also dumped a significant amount of snow at mid and higher elevations. River levels are expected to climb as a result of that melting snow.

“We are actively monitoring the situation,” said Campbell. 

Minister Fleming said crews on the ground across B.C.’s network of highways would make calls on whether to preemptively close roads if threatened by landslides or flooding.

The province is calling on people in flood-prone areas to prepare their homes for flooding and even evacuate should conditions get worse.

In the Fraser Canyon, helicopters are now airlifting supplies to several Indigenous communities left stranded from the outside world. Up to six kilometres of Highway 8 was effectively swallowed by the Nicola River and another 20 kilometres of that road are heavily damaged, said Fleming. 

“The Nicola River has literally carved a new path,” he said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to visit people affected by the floods later Friday. Fleming said he was working with his federal counterparts to ensure that when infrastructure like Highway 8 is rebuilt, it will be rebuilt to "withstand the new climate we find ourselves in."


What makes for dangerous conditions at lower altitudes has primed ski resorts like Whistler with a fresh dump of snow on the season’s opening day Thursday. 

Outside of groomed runs, those favourable conditions could turn dangerous, especially as the next storm rolls in this weekend.

Avalanche Canada is warning anyone headed to the mountains to exercise extreme caution along the Sea to Sky corridor. As of Friday at noon, very dangerous avalanche conditions are expected starting Sunday, Nov. 28, from the alpine all the way down below the treeline.

A weak surface of hoarfrost buried under the snow “could mean storm slabs remain surprisingly active,” noted a bulletin. “Take a cautious approach as you investigate the aftermath of the storm.” 

Very dangerous avalanche conditions are also expected over the weekend across many of B.C.’s Interior ranges, including in the Columbia region and Glacier National Park.

At lower altitudes, Environment Canada has issued a winter storm warning for the Trans-Canada Highway from Eagles Pass to Rogers Pass, with another five centimetres of heavy snow expected to hit Friday.

On the South Coast, high avalanche conditions are expected in alpine terrain Sunday. Due to “very dangerous avalanche conditions,” Avalanche Canada says natural avalanches are likely, while human-triggered avalanches are very likely. Avalanche risks drop to “considerable” in the treeline over the weekend. The dangerous conditions mean human-triggered avalanches are likely for anyone travelling at this elevation.

Environment Canada has issued special weather alerts for much of the South Coast and the Fraser Valley; between 40 and 120 millimetres of rain is forecast to fall in a series of storms over the weekend. Affected areas include Sunshine Coast, Howe Sound, Metro Vancouver, Abbotsford, Chilliwack and the corridor leading up to Merritt. 

“Strong warming will accompany this system causing snow levels to rise well above the mountain tops Saturday afternoon,” wrote Environment Canada in its alerts for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. 

“Snowmelt will contribute to run off, increasing the risk of flooding and possibly impacting vulnerable landscapes and infrastructure.”

The West Coast of Vancouver Island is also expected to receive up to 100 millimetres of rainfall Saturday. 

Up-to-date avalanche information can be found on Avalanche Canada's website.

Weather warnings from Environment Canada can be accessed through their Public Alert portal.

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