SURREY (NEWS 1130) – With water levels of the Fraser River rising at an unprecedented rate, more communities are being told to prepare for flood evacuations.
As a precaution we have placed #BarnstonIsland, in Electoral Area A, under an Evacuation Alert. Residents are not required to leave at this time, but are advised to prepare for the possibility of an Evacuation Order. #bcflood2018 #fraserriver #BCflood https://t.co/f8WqPdOLte pic.twitter.com/AYu28jjRcD
— Metro Vancouver (@MetroVancouver) May 16, 2018
Barnston Island between Surrey and Pitt Meadows is the latest to see an evacuation alert, including the Katzie First Nation, which has issued its own alert.
“As part of the evacuation alert, we have declared that the island shall be accessed by residents, and people on business only,” says Rod Tulett, emergency program coordinator with Metro Vancouver. “What this means practically is that Robert Point rest area and Mann Point Park… are effectively closed to the public.”
Tulett adds the priority right now is to get the hundreds of cattle currently on the island to higher ground, because if the evacuation alert is upgraded, getting the roughly 100 people off the island will take precedence.
The First Nation has already started sandbagging efforts to protect the homes not protected by the island’s dike, and Metro Vancouver has 12,000 sandbags ready to go on the Surrey side of the ferry.
The Ministry of Transportation says ferry service between Barnston Island and Port Kells will be adjusted based on Fraser River levels. Right now, the ferry is operating around the clock.
When the levels of the Mission gauge hit 6.5 metres, the province says the ferry’s barge service will continue to operate as long as possible but it will be suspended should the dock facilities become submerged in the water.
Fraser Valley communities monitoring river levels closely
Further east, three homes in Chilliwack remain under evacuation orders, while hundreds of properties in Langley Township are on evacuation alert.
Water levels through Chilliwack are expected to match, or barely exceed what the city saw in 2012.
“The experts are predicting that by the beginning of next week, it will go to six point four [metres,]” says Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz. “We don’t really start to worry in the city of Chilliwack at those levels. We would be very concerned if it reaches eight (meters).”
However, Gaetz says the city is not resting on its laurels. Daily dike patrols are ongoing, and the city’s emergency centre is prepared.
She’s advising those living on the flood plain, including areas downtown and on Fairfield Island, to consider moving their belongings out of their basements, and turn on sump pumps in case of seepage.
A high streamflow advisory is still in place for the Fraser River.
BC government invests in help
Premier John Horgan was in Chilliwack to take a tour, via helicopter, of the Lower Fraser River as waters rise.
“There are significant areas that are not behind dikes. Chilliwack has always been an area of concern when it comes to the Fraser’s rise.”
While speaking to reporters, Horgan encouraged people to donate to the Canadian Red Cross and announced his government will match contributions of up to a total of $20 million
“British Columbians will always be there for each other in times of crisis,” adds Horgan. “We’re seeing incredible strength and resilience in communities affected by flooding and British Columbians from all corners of the province want to provide a helping hand. Donations to the Canadian Red Cross will provide vital help in a time of greatest need for so many people and communities.”
The donation campaign will run from May 16 to July 31 and will apply to any individual donations from British Columbians.
Vancouver Fire warning to stay away from swollen Fraser River
While flooding is not a concern right now further down the Fraser, Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services is still warning people to stay away from the river.
“We’re not too worried about flooding in Vancouver at this point based on the current predictions, but we are concerned about the enormous amount of volume and flow in the Fraser,” explains Vancouver Fire Captain Jonathan Gormick.
“We are warning people to stay away from shorelines and beaches – anywhere that the city interfaces with the river.”
Gormick adds they always advise people stay out of the river because of the strength of the current, even under normal conditions.
“But with this high flow, the current is going to be extremely strong. We are also worried about erosion around the shoreline. The high flow and high volume could make shore and beaches unstable,” he tells NEWS 1130. “People could be standing on what they think is a stable part of interface and it could give way and they could get pulled into the river.”
Gormick says the Vancouver Park Board will be closing some beaches along the Fraser.
Southern BC being hit hard
Environment Canada has issued a special warning saying showers and thunderstorms will impact flooded areas of southern portion of the province over the next few days.
The warnings issued for East and West Kootenay, Kootenay Lake, the Okanagan and Elk Valleys and the Boundary region say 20 to 40 millimetres of rain may fall by late Friday.
It’s the latest bad news for a region already inundated after high temperatures have caused the rapid melting of snowpacks.
More than 1,500 properties in the south-central Interior City of Grand Forks remain on evacuation order while the Boundary region and Similkameen Valley are also seeing significant flooding — with Okanagan Lake due to reach full capacity by Friday and surpass that by the weekend.
To help the people affected by flooding in the Interior, you can make a $10 donation to the Canadian Red Cross by texting “BCFLOODS” to 30333.