Provincial officials said that the situation in B.C. could worsen over the coming days as heavy rainfall is expected to begin Wednesday (Nov. 24).
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said that the incoming atmospheric rivers could prove devastating to already rain-soaked ground, especially for areas that grappled with wildfires and droughts over the summer.
“While there is still significant flood damage in many places throughout the province, we are making progress on our recovery,” Farnworth said. “But in many ways we are still in uncharted territory when it comes to these storms. Having several destructive storms in a row is not anywhere near normal.”
The province has been hit by nearly a dozen atmospheric rivers already since mid-September, including the one that devastated parts of Abbotsford, Princeton and led to the evacuation of the entire City of Merritt.
Farnworth said there is a new ServiceBC hotline that can provide British Columbians with emergency updates, travel information and connect them with disaster financial aid. That hotline can be reached at 1-833-376-2452.
He urged residents to prepare to dig in for more storms ahead but not to panic: “buy only what you need.”
However, while food supply issues caused shortages in some communities earlier, Farnworth said there are action being taken to mitigate that. CP Rail trains are operating and Farnworth said that the U.S. has created exemptions to allow truck drivers who do not usually go through the U.S. to be able to cross the border in order to get supplies across B.C.
“Our food supply chain remains stable,” said Agriculture Minister Lana Popham, adding that B.C.’s milk supply is up to 80 per cent of normal
Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said that temporary repairs have been completed and “we can expect Hwy. 1 to reopen fully through the Fraser Valley tomorrow.”
Provincial officials urged British Columbians to adhere to gas rationing policies and stay off roads affected by travel restrictions but stopped short of telling travellers to cancel plans, including those in Whistler as the ski resort prepares to open for the season.
“Right now, people should avoid all unnecessary travel,” Farnworth said, but said that people have been abiding by the 30 litre gas limit and that B.C. does have a good supply of fuel, including some being barged up from the U.S.
“People need to pay attention to the weather, to DriveBC and if you don’t have to travel, don’t travel.”
However, Fleming said that when it came to Whistler, the ski town on Highway 99 was south of the section covered by essential travel restrictions.
“We’re not worried, from a congestion point of view, about the Lower Mainland connecting to communities like Squamish and Whistler, but we will be advising that only essential travel is possible in the area north of Pemberton.”
Motorists in the southwest of the province are limited to 30 litres of gas per station visit until Dec. 1