British Columbia extended its state of emergency to support flood recovery efforts as well as orders limiting fuel purchases for non-essential vehicles and restricting travel along hard-hit sections of the province’s compromised highways .
Announcing the extensions on Monday, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said “severe weather” continued to pose problems for the Trans Mountain pipeline, which normally carries 85% of the fuel required to British Columbia for refining. and has been offline since November 14.
“The fuel economy measures are working and I want to thank British Columbians for their patience, but we have to stay the course for another two weeks until the Trans Mountain pipeline is back on line,” said Mr. Farnworth. “We need to make sure our supply chains and emergency services have the fuel they need to operate.”
The order limiting fuel purchases to 30 liters per gas station visit applies to the Lower Mainland, Sea-to-Sky region, Sunshine Coast, Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island. This order, along with the state of emergency that gives the province the power to implement it, has been extended at least until December 14.
The province is also extending an order banning non-essential travel on parts of Highways 3, 7 and 99. Those who break the rules could face fines of up to $ 2,000.
British Columbia is currently between the second and third in a series of forecast storms. Clean-up and reconstruction efforts following heavy flooding two weeks ago, which damaged critical infrastructure and affected all major roads, have come alongside night-time efforts involving hundreds of workers and volunteers to put on sandbags and prepare for more adverse weather conditions. Meanwhile, the government had to find other ways to keep essential goods such as fuel flowing.
Energy Minister Bruce Ralston said government staff were working with his federal counterparts at Transport Canada and Natural Resources Canada as well as with fuel suppliers, retailers and the Canadian Fuels Association to s ” ensure that British Columbia has an adequate supply of fuel.
“The fuel made its way into the Lower Mainland from Alberta by rail,” Ralston said Monday. “We also know that some barges have arrived to unload fuel from the United States. This has provided us with a supply of fuel to offset product that would typically come from the Trans Mountain pipeline as the company struggles to restart the line. “
CP Rail said 30 locations were damaged as a result of the rainstorm, but resumed some operations last week.
However, some producers are still grappling with the challenges of transporting damaged infrastructure. Logging company West Fraser announced the temporary closure of two pulp mills, with 220 workers laid off, according to the Williams Lake Tribune. The company said it was unable to ship the product and was running out of accessible storage.
In Abbotsford, Mayor Henry Braun said on Monday that water from the Nooksack River that broke a dike in Sumas, Wash. And was due to flood his city on Sunday ended up taking a day longer than expected by U.S. officials. In addition, the Fraser River has sunk enough for Abbotsford to reopen the gates at its Barrowtown pumping station after a brief shutdown, allowing water from the Sumas River to drain.
“These two things combined make me very comfortable, and I feel much better today than yesterday at this stage of the second [weather] event, ”the mayor said at a press conference. “The third is still an unknown. Everything is holding together, so I think we’re in good shape.
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The water had not reached the bottom of the badly affected Sumas Prairie Lake Monday afternoon, but reached about two feet in the village of Huntingdon in Abbotsford, along the US border, where an evacuation order is still in force.
Armel Castellan, a weather preparedness meteorologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada, said on Monday that southern British Columbia was in “24 hour break” from the rain and the next system is again an atmospheric river, coming from near the Philippines, traveling 8,000-9,000 kilometers in the last few days.
“It will give a relatively strong punch, similar to what we saw this weekend,” he said. “We’re talking about 50 to 100 millimeters on the south coast for the Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast, Howe Sound and the Fraser Valley.
Mr. Castellan added that the region faces not only rain, but also melting snow and a successive storm.
“So even though the third storm is not as bad as it could have been in modeling until today, it will be problematic as they get so close, back to back, with the runoff and saturated soil. “
British Columbia’s River Forecast Center updated flood warnings for all of Vancouver Island and much of the south coast from Vancouver to Bella Coola on Monday morning.
In the Cowichan District, which has been in a local state of emergency since mid-November, 147 properties have been assessed for flood damage in the past two weeks. A flood center run by the regional district with the Cowichan Tribes, Halalt First Nation and Penelakut Tribe has served 200 people in the past four days. With additional heavy rains in the forecast, a 30-member Canadian Forces team was deployed over the weekend to the most affected communities in the region to support sandbagging and preparedness.
With up to 100 millimeters of rain forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday in Howe Sound, the Squamish Nation has asked emergency crews to put sandbags in vulnerable areas to protect against rising levels on the Cheakamus River . The nation was securing accommodation and preparing Totem Hall in Squamish as a reception center in case residents had to evacuate.
Meanwhile, nearly 10 percent of blueberry fields in British Columbia have been affected by flooding, and some farmers are unsure if they will be able to invest the time and money to start over.
The BC Blueberry Council estimates that at least 2,500 acres of blueberries have been affected, including about 1,000 acres that remain underwater on the Sumas Prairie. Statistics Canada reports that the total blueberry production area in the province is approximately 27,000 acres.
The Blueberry Council added that parts of the Matsqui Plains region and other areas near the Fraser River have also been inundated and are susceptible to varying degrees of damage or loss.
Blueberries die when submerged for long periods of time. Harry Sidhu, a blueberry grower in the Sumas Grassland, said critically affected growers are likely to have to pull up their bushes and replant, at a high cost.
“Blueberries are a perennial and it takes years to achieve a large crop yield, so it can represent a significant loss of income for many years,” Sidhu said in a statement.
Mr Braun said last week he felt sick to the farmers who tearfully told him they couldn’t afford to do it again.
“Some of these farmers told me they didn’t know if they were going [replant], they don’t know if they can do it financially, ”he said.
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