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B.C. communities brace for storm series; RCMP search for missing woman

The Canadian Press
B.C. communities brace for storm series; RCMP search for missing woman

VICTORIA, B.C. – Wind and rainfall warnings blanketed most of British Columbia’s coast on Wednesday as what Environment Canada calls a “parade” of storms was expected to sweep over areas of the province already struggling to recover from devastating flooding.

The alerts come as the number of people confirmed killed or missing in the floods rose to six, with the RCMP saying officers are investigating a report of a missing woman who was unable to leave a home on Highway 8 before it was washed away last week. Four bodies have been recovered from a mudslide along Highway 99 near Lillooet and one man is still missing.

The centre that monitors the province’s waterways said several atmospheric rivers will drench B.C., dropping up to 70 millimetres of rain over the Fraser Valley, including Abbotsford, by Thursday and even more over Vancouver’s North Shore mountains.

The statement from the River Forecast Centre said another storm will arrive Saturday and “additional storms are expected early next week,” although the amount and severity of rainfall is still being determined.

The centre issued high streamflow advisories for waterways along the entire length of B.C.’s coast and was maintaining a flood warning for the Sumas River and Sumas Prairie around Abbotsford. It said rivers were expected to rise on Thursday with the potentially highest flows expected around the Sunshine Coast, Howe Sound and North Shore corridor.

It says rivers in the Fraser Valley would rise by amounts similar to typical fall storms but could be “more problematic due to flood response and recovery efforts and damaged infrastructure in the region.”

Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said Tuesday that more information was emerging about extreme flood damage from last week when the Nicola and Coldwater rivers burst their banks.

The flooding forced the evacuation of Merritt, with some residents starting to return Tuesday, but Fleming said damage was also significant along most of Highway 8 between Merritt and Spences Bridge.

“Eighteen segments of that highway sustained substantial damage,” Fleming said. “Four bridges are either gone or damaged.”

Repairs would take some time, Fleming told a news conference, but he said work had begun to restore road access to several Indigenous communities that have been isolated since the flooding last Sunday and Monday.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth has said more than 6,500 people have registered as evacuees and those whose homes were flooded last week are eligible for a $2,000 grant through the Canadian Red Cross and the province.

Some evacuees from Sumas River flooding in the Fraser Valley were allowed to return home Tuesday and the mayor of Abbotsford said preparations were progressing for the upcoming storms.

Mayor Henry Braun said the city had finished inspecting its dike system and found less than one per cent needed repairs after last week’s heavy rainfall, and about 80 per cent of the repairs were complete.

“We expect another five feet (1.5 metres) of height to be added to the dike prior to the weather event anticipated for Thursday,” Braun told a news conference.

“I am hopeful that this will put us in the best position to manage the rain that will come.”

©2021 The Canadian Press

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