As rain pelted down in the Fraser Valley on Saturday, Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun shared his worries about the Nooksack River overflowing south of the border, which could lead to more flooding on Sumas Prairie.
“As you know we remain extremely concerned about the coming weather events and the impact they will have on our flood situation,” Braun said during the Nov. 27 press conference.
“The unknown factor is how much water is going to come south of the border. The rain we can handle … what we can’t handle is if the Nooksack overflows and starts emptying again into Sumas Prairie.”
Due to heavy rainfall expected this weekend, floodwaters could rise again on both sides of the border.
According to Whatcom County, the Nooksack River is expected to reach “moderate” flood levels on Sunday, Nov. 28, possibly causing more flooding to Sumas Prairie due to damaged dikes.
Braun spoke about his meeting and tour of the eastern Valley with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday, during which they discussed the flooding, and the current and long-term impacts on the community and farmers.
Trudeau arrived in Abbotsford to meet with officials and see the flood-ravaged areas. He met with Braun, B.C. Deputy Premier Mike Farnworth, Chief Dalton Silver of the Sumas First Nation, and Chief Alice McKay of the Matsqui First Nation.
Later in the day on Friday, Trudeau held a press conference with Premier John Horgan in Victoria where the two vowed to match flood relief donations to the Canadian Red Cross, and set up a federal-provincial cabinet committee to deal with the devastation of southern B.C. highways, roads and farms. Torrential rains and snow melt beginning on Nov. 14 caused flooding that seriously flooded and damaged every major highway route from the Lower Mainland to the rest of B.C., and caused untold millions of dollars of destruction to homes and farms, especially on Sumas Prairie and in Princeton.
Hundreds of Canadian Forces troops, equipment and aircraft arrived last weekend to assist local authorities and volunteers with the flood damage and related issues.
While speaking with Horgan and Trudeau, Braun stressed how important it was for the federal and provincial governments to support Abbotsford with its critical diking and drainage infrastructure, including the Barrowtown pump station and dikes.
“If we are not supported, and the Barrowtown pump station fails, we expect there will be eight feet or more of water over Highway 1 for months, which could result in a critical transportation route for residences, goods and services for the Lower Mainland, and B.C. being out of commission for up to a year,” Braun said.
He asked that the Canadian Armed Forces remain in Abbotsford as they are “essential” for dike inspections and sandbagging efforts, especially with upcoming heavy rain.
“Prime Minister Trudeau was very clear with me, and he wants all Abbotsford residents to know that he and his government are here to support us with whatever we need, and that we are not in this alone.”
During Saturday’s press briefing, Braun added that the repairs near Atkinson Road are 95 per cent complete.
“We are 30 per cent complete with raising the dike by a half a metre over that six- or seven-kilometre stretch southwest of Barrowtown pump station,” Braun said.
Residents on evacuation alert, specifically those in the Huntingdon area, need to be prepared to leave immediately as the City of Abbotsford may only received limited notice due to changing weather conditions.
Sandbagging support for Huntingdon area homes is available at Huntingdon Park.
The Fraser Valley is expected to get about 80 mm of rain between Saturday morning (Nov. 27) through to Sunday afternoon (Nov. 28), according to Environment Canada. About 100 mm of rain is expected in areas closer to the mountains.
— with files from Vikki Hopes and Tom Fletcher