‘The time to prepare is now’: B.C. warns residents ahead of 2 more atmospheric rivers

B.C.'s Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Lana Popham provided an update Friday saying her office has made at least 1,400 direct connections with the agriculture sector over the last week and is working with many agriculture associations to combat issues.

The province is warning everyone to be prepared as two more atmospheric rivers are set to make landfall in the coming days.

Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said Friday these two new storms come with an increased risk of landslides, flooding and power outages.

“For people in B.C., the time to prepare is now,” he said.

People should only travel if they have to, he added, and if they have to, they should be prepared with emergency kits, food and water.

Highways may need to close if more flooding becomes a concern, Fleming said, so drivers should consult Drive BC before heading out.

“Crews and equipment are on standby to respond,” he said.

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Highway 1 between Abbotsford and Chilliwack reopened Thursday, and Fleming said traffic has been moving well through that stretch.

East of Chilliwack, near Bridal Falls, remains single-lane traffic only.

Meanwhile, Highway 7 between Mission and Hope remains open for essential traffic only. About 4,000 trucks have now moved through the corridor along Highway 7, Highway 1 and then Highway 3, he said.

The minister warned all drivers to be careful of road conditions as Highway 3 closed Friday for some time because of a serious collision.

Highway 99 is open for regular travel, but no vehicles larger than a cube van are allowed.

The Coquihalla Highway and Highway 8 remain heavily damaged. At least four bridges on Highway 8 washed away.

Fleming said the Nicola River has largely carved a new path through the area.

About five to six kilometres of the highway are completely gone, and about 20 kilometres damaged.

The government is working with First Nations in the area to rebuild.

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Seven different sites are damaged on Highway 1 through the Fraser Canyon, Fleming added, with four that suffered major destruction. Work is underway at Jackass Mountain and Tank Hill to install temporary structures.

Crews with more than 50 pieces of heavy equipment are working on that stretch of highway, with the hope that traffic could flow through by mid-January

“The permanent rebuild of Highways 1 and 8 will take a long time, but it has started,” Fleming said.

“When we rebuild, we will rebuild better than it was, there’s no question about that.”

Future infrastructure must be rebuilt to withstand the new climate realities, he added.

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CP Rail has been running to and from the Interior since Tuesday, and CN Rail is hoping to resume operations Friday.

He added fuel is being imported, and the province hopes the current supply can be maintained.

On Thursday, Trans Mountain officials said they no longer have a restart date for the pipeline, and continue to work to get it back up and running.

Now that the first of three storms has come and gone, Dave Campbell with the River Forecast Centre said all eyes are turning to Saturday night into Sunday.

The previous storm brought 50 to 90 millimetres of rain to most areas of the South Coast, but during the next two events, he said, snowmelt could be a bigger issue.

The river levels were dropping Friday after Thursday’s storm, Campbell said, but the Sumas Prairie in Abbotsford remains under a flood warning.

A flood watch is in effect for the Sea‐to‐Sky region, including areas around Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton, the Sunshine Coast, Howe Sound, the North Shore mountains and the Lower Mainland, including areas along the Fraser Valley and around Hope.

Campbell said the centre is monitoring the Nooksack River in Washington State, as the diking system there seems to have suffered some damage.

He said Tuesday’s storm is looking to be the most severe at this time, and it’s carrying heat and moisture from the Philippines.

Watch the full press conference below:

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