Worst of atmospheric river to come, Senate says Fraser Valley needs flood control plan

By Charlie Carey and The Canadian Press

The worst of the atmospheric river to hit B.C. is yet to come, and power to thousands of properties in the province is out Thursday.

BC Hydro is reporting multiple outages across Metro Vancouver, and the wind has downed an electricity line across Highway 1 in Coquitlam. More than 9,000 customers are without power in the Lower Mainland alone.

CityNews Meteorologist Michael Kuss says he’s expecting outages in the region, along with North Vancouver Island that’s tipped to receive heavy rain, due to the high winds accompanying the atmospheric river.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw some outages in that part of the province as we get through the morning, and then that wave continues to slump toward the South Coast into the afternoon today. That’s when the winds will become strong.”

Kuss says the storm will really ramp up into Thursday afternoon.

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“I would say early afternoon we’ll get those gusts pushing 50, 60 kilometers per hour, and stronger than that through the mid to late afternoon as well,” he said. “Temperatures are stable around 10 to 12 degrees through the day today. We’re in a relatively warm sector of air once the rain passes, but that won’t be until overnight.”

Kuss says the Lower Mainland will see the heaviest rainfall around 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.

Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry is calling for a comprehensive flood control plan for the Fraser Valley following last year’s catastrophic floods.

Last November, historic rainfall caused flooding of 15,000 hectares of land, affecting more than 1,000 farms and 2.5 million livestock. The rain washed out highway and railway infrastructure, and caused an estimated $285 million in damage.

The committee says its study into the flooding and its impacts shows a flood control plan is “critical to protecting the vulnerable Fraser Valley region” from future, and potentially worse, disasters.

It says in a news release that the plan should include a timeline for dike upgrades and calls for the creation of a committee to examine flood mitigation measures, emergency preparedness, and response strategies.

The committee adds the plan should be developed by the federal and provincial governments in collaboration with other stakeholders, including Indigenous communities, so it reflects the various challenges that different communities face when hit by flooding.

The report also calls for co-operation between the Canadian and United States governments to address transboundary water issues, including the Nooksack River, which overflowed in the U.S. and was a major contributor to flooding in the Fraser Valley.

“Floods like those in southwest British Columbia in November 2021 will inevitably happen again and the damage they cause could be much worse,” Senator Robert Black, chairman of the committee, said in the news release.

“To protect Fraser Valley residents, farmers, and their livelihoods, the federal government must invest in and help the B.C. government update the province’s outdated flood mitigation infrastructure.”

Kuss notes Thursday’s storm will pale in comparison to the one that is expected to hit Sunday, however, he does not expect wide-spread flooding like the Fraser Valley experienced in November.

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