MERRITT, B.C. – Heavy rain and high winds are wreaking havoc on B.C.
In addition to the storm prompting evacuations and stranding motorists, the Trans Mountain Pipeline has been stopped and work on the pipeline’s expansion has paused.
“As a precaution, Trans Mountain has shut down the Trans Mountain Pipeline due to widespread flooding and debris flows in the area around Hope, B.C.,” said a project spokesperson. “Construction on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project has stood down in the Lower Mainland, Hope, Merritt regions due to prolonged rainstorms.”
Officials in Merritt issued an evacuation order to residents after flood waters inundated two bridges across the Coldwater River and prevented access to the third. The high flood waters have rendered the city’s wastewater treatment plant inoperable for an indefinite period which officials said presents risk of mass sewage back-up and personal health risk.
The city urged residents to stay with friends or family outside of the community or proceed to Kamloops or Kelowna. The city has also requested all gas stations remain open for residents leaving the city.
“Merritt is and will remain strong. At this time, we need everyone to proceed in a calm and orderly manner to safe locations in nearby cities,” said Mayor Linda Brown in a statement. “For your own safety, you must now leave Merritt, for the time being. Please, offer help to your friends, families, and neighbours, drive safely, and take care of yourselves. We will meet each other again, in our homes, where we belong.”
Agassiz, Abbotsford and Princeton also issued evacuation orders after a dike burst.
Meanwhile, on the province’s highways, motorists remain stranded due to mudslides.
According to the Canadian Press, rescue efforts are underway for people in up to 100 vehicles trapped by mudslides that rolled over a highway in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley following an “atmospheric river” that brought torrential rain to parts of the province.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said search and rescue crews are assessing how to safely get to Highway 7 near Agassiz as multiple highways are closed due to the downpour.
“They will be doing everything they can to ensure that they reach people who are trapped in their vehicles between those slides as quickly as possible,” Farnworth told reporters.
Farnworth said officials are prepared to conduct an air rescue if needed, although predicted high winds could challenge those efforts.
Geotechnical engineers are also trying to assess several highways sliced by landslides, while some communities that issued evacuation alerts were sandbagging and bracing for potential flooding, he added.
Paula Cousins, the Ministry of Transportation’s representative for the Interior region, told The Canadian Press that the Highway 5 corridor between Hope and Merritt remains closed Monday due to slides and falling rocks after 200 millimetres of rain since the weekend.
Environment Canada said 225 millimetres of rain had deluged the community of Hope since the storm began Saturday and 180 millimetres had fallen around Agassiz and Chilliwack.
The District of Kent, which includes Agassiz, issued a local state of emergency after the landslides cut off Highway 7.
With files from The Canadian Press