Repairs to Highway 97 in Pine Pass could take weeks

Provincial officials say it could take weeks to rebuild sections of Highway 97 through the Pine Pass and reconnect northeast B.C. to the southern reaches of the province.

The highway is currently closed between Chetwynd and the Mackenzie Junction after a torrential downpour this week washed out several sections of highway and rail lines through the pass.

Maria Butts, the Peace Region district manager for the Ministry of Transportation, noted upwards of five locations along Highway 97 have been washed out or significantly damaged--including sections of road at Commotion Creek, Fisher Creek and Hasler south of Chetwynd.

"This was a very powerful storm, quite uncommon … but the assessment of damage does not appear to be as extensive as it was in 2011," when a storm that year washed out the highway, she said.

"That took a couple of weeks to fully reopen, so we could be looking at similar timeline for full reopen."

Crews will be cutting new road around the damaged sections of highway to bring in equipment and materials, Butts said. They will work to reopen the pass to single-lane traffic as soon as possible, she said.

Motorists are advised to travel alternate routes through Alberta until then, she said.

The Ministry of Transportation will be providing regular updates on Pine Pass reconstruction via drivebc.ca and its social media platforms.

Other highway updates:

• Highway 52, north from Tumbler Ridge to Dawson Creek is currently single-lane alternating traffic

• Highway 29, south from Chetwynd to Tumbler Ridge is closed

• Highway 29, north from Chetwynd to Hudson’s Hope: Single lane alternating traffic.

• Highway 52: Single lane alternating traffic 10km south of Arras

Environment Canada meteorologist Lisa Coldwells said a cold, low-pressure system concentrated over the South Peace dropped 11 millimetres of rain per hour over the Chetwynd area for 14 hours straight on June 15. Cold temperatures brought another 10 to 15 centimetres of wet snow in the Pine Pass, she added.

By the time the storm wrapped, Chetwynd saw 130 mm of rain over two days, smashing records that go back to 1970.

"This, as you can see, that was an unprecedented rainfall daily amount," Coldwells said.

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