Second atmospheric river to hit B.C.’s South Coast this weekend

Just a couple of weeks ago we were dealing with record-setting temperatures and drought conditions, now urgent preparations are underway to brace for the region’s next atmospheric river.

The Lower Mainland did get a taste of what’s to come on Thursday evening when it was raining sideways in many areas, but that’s going to pale in comparison to what’s in store for the next 48 hours.

CityNews Vancouver Meteorologist Michael Kuss says the next storm will start up on Saturday and drag into Sunday.

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“The atmospheric river is more substantial and more sustained than what we saw on Thursday. The one that’s coming in on the weekend develops late Saturday, lingers through Sunday, the winds will be up, but the rainfall is going to be noticeably enhanced. We could see 50 to 100 millimetres around the area easily through the weekend.”

He says Friday and early Saturday will be the calm before the storm.

“There’s a lot of water funneling toward the South Coast, but the direction of that atmospheric river is more out of the west or west-northwest as opposed to a pineapple express where we see that tropical moisture sliding in from the southwest and that’s when we get our heaviest rain.”

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Despite the warning of the storm, Kuss says this won’t be like the record-setting atmospheric rivers B.C. experienced nearly one year ago.

“The difference between this atmospheric river and the one we had last November that stretched from the 13th to the 15th bringing 120 millimetres on the low end at YVR to 300-plus millimetres out toward the Fraser Valley, is that was a three-day run. This river is around for about a day or day-and-a-half, so the rainfall totals aren’t going to be as dramatic and the saturation and the flooding [will be] nowhere near on the same level.”

The Insurance Bureau of Canada says the cost of last year’s atmospheric rivers led to $675 million in insured damage.

Province prepares

Unlike last year when the province didn’t warn the public about the impending storms, this year it’s encouraging people to get ready.

The Ministry of Public Safety says the River Forecast Centre is closely monitoring the forecast and will be issuing any warnings, as needed.

“Emergency Management BC (EMBC) is prepared to deploy 4 million sandbags to local governments to protect homes and public infrastructure. EMBC is prepared to deploy or pre-position sandbag machines to areas of flood concern or potential flood concern throughout the province. EMBC is prepared to deploy 10 kilometres of gabions, which are wall-like structures filled with sand, and 32 kilometres of tiger dams, which are stackable orange tubes filled with water,” says the ministry in a statement.

This year, unlike in 2021, the provincial Alert Ready system will be in place to warn of any immediate threats of flooding.

No need to worry, Fraser Valley mayors say

Meanwhile, the two hardest-hit Fraser Valley municipalities in last year’s fall floods say this weekend’s storm is expected to be much different than last year’s.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun says there’s a heightened sensitivity on the Sumas Prairie, but there’s no need to worry.

“[The] information that we have is that what’s coming at us is relatively minor,” he told CityNews. “They’re not talking about any major flooding … looks like it’s nowhere near even getting close to the top of the river bank.”

Ken Popove, Chilliwack mayor, says the city is getting ready for the rain by checking culverts and creeks, to make sure they’re not clogged.

He’s confident the coming storm won’t be a repeat of last year’s devastation.

“I wish they would quit calling it the ‘atmospheric river’ because it really scares people because they’re making comparisons to what happened last year.”

What is an atmospheric river?

For experts, this term has been around for a long time but for British Columbians, many only really got familiar with it in the fall of 2021. An atmospheric river is a phenomenon known as a narrow band of moist air and heavy precipitation.

With so much rain coming down in such a short amount of time, you can expect some pooling water on the roads, make sure anything that needs to be bolted down outside your home — is, have an emergency kit and plan in place and please clear the leaves outside your property so all that rain can drain.

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