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B.C. breaking temperature records, causing snowmelt, adding to flooding

While there’s a bit of a break in the weather, flood watches and warnings remain in place for many areas in B.C. as more rain is expected in the forecast. Record-breaking temperatures are making the flood situation even more challenging.

While the province is seeing a lull in this latest storm, Armel Castellan, a meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada, says “we expect more precipitation this afternoon, to the tune of up to 40 millimetres for places like Howe Sound, for the North Shore mountains, and Abbotsford.”

“Beyond Abbotsford, we expect potentially up to 50 millimetres for Chilliwack and Hope through the evening. And up to the Coquihalla and the Boston Bar locations, into the coastal mountains, we could see another 30 millimetres maybe even 40 millimetres,” he said Wednesday.

The rain is expected to be heaviest Wednesday afternoon as the cold front sweeps through, Castellan says, emphasizing the province has been experiencing record-breaking heat.

“An atmospheric river not only brings moisture but it brings heat, and it’s bringing it well above 3,000 meters well above mountaintop heights,” he said.

“Many records are being broken today. For these temperatures and yesterday, perhaps even record-breaking temperatures for any day in December.”

The province is warming up at high elevations and B.C. is seeing lots of snowmelt in addition to the heavy rainfall.

“The heat is not just at the valley bottom. It’s certainly going up to mountaintop heights. So any snow that has occurred in the past several weeks, including ahead of the mid-month event and since, it is not extremely thick,” Castellan explained.

“These rain events can be muted up at elevation. [But] when the snowpack is thinner, it’s closer to being melted. So an event like this can actually melt a lot of snow. And that’s when we’re starting to see values not only on the coast. But into the Interior, where an addition to the rain is the snowmelt, it can happen very quickly. Especially considering how saturated all of the soils are as a result of having such a long period of wetness.”

According to David Campbell with the River Forecast Centre, the South Coast has seen about 15 or 16 millimeters of snowmelt water.

In the north and in the Central Coast, snowmelt rates have been a little more muted, Campbell said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the River Forecast Centre had issued warnings for to the Tulameen, Similkameen, Coldwater and Lower Nicola rivers, and the Spius Creek. It has also upgraded flood watches to flood warnings for the Coquihalla and Chilliwack rivers and Lower Fraser tributaries.

The centre says rivers are expected to rise throughout the day and warns conditions are dynamic and changing rapidly. According to Campbell, in the Interior, there are high streamflow advisories with a combination of snowmelt and heavy rain.

Environment Canada is tracking a storm expected to come late Friday or Saturday, mostly affecting the South Coast.

“But it is not as potent as these atmospheric rivers are,” Castellan said.

The next storm could bring around 15 to 25 millimetres, “perhaps a little more but generally speaking quite a bit less.”

“Then looking forward into next week, we see a continued active Pacific right into the south coast and the Central Coast so please be aware to follow your forecast and heed the warnings as closely as possible as we go into continued active weather,” Castellan said.

As he has for the past two weeks, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth is urging British Columbians to avoid unnecessary travel and follow evacuation orders and instructions from local officials and the experts on the ground.

“Call 911 to report your location immediately if on evacuation order and you cannot evacuate on your own.”

Relief Efforts

Farnworth adds, thanks to the “generosity of Canadians” and funds from the province, the Red Cross had sent out more than $5.8 million to households that were placed on evacuation order due to flooding and extreme weather events.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and B.C.’s premier said they would match all donations made by individuals and corporations between Nov. 17 and Dec. 26.

“Every $1 donated will become $3, to support those who’ve been affected by the floods,” Farnworth explained.

Related Article: Red Cross issuing flood affected households $2,000, B.C. braces for next weather event

“The response has been incredible. And thankfully, there appears to be some reprieve in the weather in the days ahead,” he said. “But for now, please continue to look out for one another and communities.”

Communities ravaged by the recent storms and subsequent flooding say they were denied financial help from the provincial government. Jason Lum, chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District, he says they’ve made dozens of requests for help from the province and most have been unanswered.

That includes a request of $1.5 million to shore up a major road near Hope. By the time the province responded, the road had been washed away.

“Out this event, we have experienced delays in getting funding approvals,” he said. Tuesday. “Roads, water systems, diking infrastructure, sewer systems, as well as bridges, [suffered] catastrophic damage.”

“The system for accessing emergency critical funds is broken. We need the province to advance emergency funds now so that we can do the work to save lives, property, and infrastructure.”

Farnworth says he’s heard the concerns of the regional district that runs from Abbotsford to Boston Bar, including criticisms that government has been slow to get municipalities the money they need.

“There’s a significant amount of resources going into communities,” he said.

He says the minister of municipalities met Wednesday with the regional district director, following a letter sent this week detailing a lack of direct communication with government when the first storm was coming, resulting in damage that might have been avoided.

“My staff will be working with them to ensure that if there are any issues that they are resolved.”

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