Highway 1 from Abbotsford to Chilliwack to reopen but worse weather on the way

Wind and precipitation warnings covered most of the BC coast on Wednesday and came after a dozen so-called atmospheric rivers since September.

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Sumas Prairie floods have receded enough over the past few days to allow the reopening of Highway 1 from Abbotsford to Chilliwack on Thursday.

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But with a series of heavy weather systems moving in from the Pacific that must arrive the same day, British Columbia is far from out of the woods.

There are still no words on when the Coquihalla Highway between Hope and Merritt will reopen – or even if possible this winter – or when Highway 8 between Merritt and Spences Bridge may reopen.

The reopening means Highway 1 will be open to everyone between Vancouver and Chilliwack, but will only be open to important vehicles from Chilliwack to Hope.

A water-boiling warning for Sumas Prairie was upgraded to a non-use warning on Wednesday, while the RCMP reported that a sixth person was likely to have died as a result of the mid-November rainstorm that devastated the southwestern part of the province. .

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Coquihalla North of Hope at Othello.  Repairs due to floods continue.
Coquihalla North of Hope at Othello. Repairs due to floods continue. Photo by BC Transportation /PNG

Secretary of State Mike Farnworth said BC remained in “uncharted territory.”

Wind and rain forecasts covered most of the BC coast on Wednesday and came after a dozen so-called atmospheric rivers since September.

Farnworth said even routine rainfall can cause already swollen rivers to rise to dangerous heights, and he urged residents to prepare for evacuations and keep an eye out for updates.

Transport Minister Rob Fleming said the government was prepared to close some roads as a precaution as model builders tried to predict where and when floods and mudslides could occur.

“These storms are coming at a time when we are already struggling with some of the most devastating weather we have ever seen,” Farnworth said. “Even though we are up to the challenge, we are working through a monumental task.”

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The wind and rain warnings come as the number of people confirmed killed or missing in the floods rose to six, and the RCMP says officers are investigating a report of a missing woman who was unable to leave a home on Highway 8 , before it was flushed away last week. Four bodies have been found after a mudslide along Highway 99 near Lillooet, and a man is still missing at the scene.

Highway 5 - Coquihalla Work in progress on repairing Jessica Bridge due to flood damage.
Highway 5 – Coquihalla Work in progress on repairing Jessica Bridge due to flood damage. Photo by BC Transportation /PNG

The center, which monitors the province’s waterways, said an atmospheric river would soak BC and drop up to 70 millimeters of rain over Fraser Valley, including Abbotsford, on Thursday and even more over Vancouver’s North Shore mountains.

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

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The center issued warnings of high currents for waterways along the entire BC coast and maintained a flood warning for the Sumas River and Sumas Prairie around Abbotsford. It said rivers were expected to rise Thursday with the potentially highest currents expected in the Sunshine Coast, Howe Sound and the North Shore Corridor.

Rivers in the Fraser Valley will increase by volumes similar to typical hurricanes, but may be “more problematic due to flooding and recovery efforts and damaged infrastructure in the region,” it said.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said repairs to the dike system covering the western side of the Sumas prairie were 90 per cent complete.

The Canadian Pacific Railway said the first trains arrived in Vancouver from Kamloops on Wednesday after operations on the line resumed Tuesday. They were full of grain and fuel, the company said in a statement.

Images showing damage in and around the Shackan First Nation Reserve in BC's Nicola Valley following the storms and floods of November 2021.
Images showing damage in and around the Shackan First Nation Reserve in BC’s Nicola Valley following the storms and floods of November 2021. Photo by Keith Fransson / Urban Systems / Shackan First Nation /PNG

BC Hydro warned of potential power outages and an increase in water flowing into its reservoirs on Vancouver Island and the south coast. Teams released water from some reservoirs that were already filled, CEO Chris O’Riley said in a statement Wednesday.

More than 258,000 people lost power during last week’s storms.

with files from Canadian Press

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