'Adversity can bring out the best in people': Latest update on current storm and B.C. flood recovery
With dozens of weather warnings still in effect during a lull in the latest storm striking southern and coastal British Columbia, officials say it's hard to tell what the impact will be when it's all over.
Speaking at a news conference Wednesday morning, at a time when conditions had calmed, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said there was more heavy rain to come before it could be determined whether any major damage was caused in the latest bout.
A third weather system, given the name "atmospheric river" by meteorologists, is passing over a large part of the province, some of which is still recovering from flooding caused by mid-November storms.
The term refers to a narrow region in the atmosphere that transports water vapour in a column, almost like a river in the sky.
The systems result in days of relentless rain, and led to flooding and fatal mudslides in B.C. The impacts of the first of the intense storms are still being felt, including in Abbotsford where farms were flooded and thousands of animals died, and on major highways that were partially destroyed and are still closed weeks later.
The third of these storms began its trek across the southern half of B.C., and while, at the time Farnworth spoke shortly before noon, things had calmed, he said wanted to "make it clear to everyone that this storm is not over."
He said a "significant" part of the storm was still to come, later in the day.
"The extreme weather events we've been experiencing are unprecedented, and many parts of our province are experiencing heavy rainfall … The full extent of the damage from this latest storm remains to be seen," Farnworth said.
The province is monitoring conditions closely, some areas are under evacuation order or alert, flood warnings and watches have been issued and some highways were closed as a precaution.
"Our top priority remains public safety," he said.
"I want to thank British Columbians for their vigilance, for being prepared and for keeping themselves and their neighbours safe. When we all work together and do our part, it makes a huge difference."
He called this an "extremely challenging time" for the province. The storms followed a challenging wildfire season in B.C., as well as a heat wave that claimed hundreds of lives – all while in the middle of a global pandemic.
He urged anyone feeling anxious or overwhelmed to turn to professionals and other resources when needed. The minister noted an online hub set up for flood response information includes a range of virtual mental health resources, including free and low-cost counselling.
"I've seen an incredible outpouring of support and comradery during this disaster. Adversity can bring out the best in people," Farnworth said.
WEATHER WARNINGS IN B.C.
As of noon Wednesday there were about two dozen weather warnings and statements in effect in B.C.
Environment Canada said the central and west coasts of Vancouver Island could see up to 150 millimetres of rain as a result of the latest storm, while the Fraser Valley should expect up to 100 millimetres.
Strong winds with gusts of up to 90 km/h are also in the forecast.
The British Columbia River Forecast Centre has issued flood watches for the central and south coasts, Lower Fraser and all of Vancouver Island.
Rain is expected to ease Thursday and Friday, though another, smaller weather system is in the forecast for the South Coast later on Friday.
An evacuation order is in effect in the Birken area due to landslide hazard at Neff Creek, according to the Squamish-Lillooet Regional Distract.
In Abbotsford, evacuation alerts or orders are in place for properties along Florence Drive, Sumas Mountain Road, Lower Sumas Mountain Road, Glencoe Drive and North Parallel Road.
Additionally, travel advisories are in place, and those who live in the affected parts off B.C. are asked to avoid non-essential travel as much as possible.
With files from The Canadian Press
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