Catastrophic flooding in BC will have long term detrimental impacts

By Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter 

(ANNews) – Over the past week, a major storm in B.C. has caused catastrophic flooding and mudslides within the province, causing mass-destruction to highways and supply chains.

Atmospheric Rivers

The storm that hit B.C. over recent weeks is known as an “atmospheric river,” which is a large stream of water vapour that can stretch up to 1,600 km long and 640 km wide.

According to research at the University of California, these types of storms on average hold an amount of water equivalent to 25 Mississippi rivers.

While these storms provide large portions of moisture for many regions across the globe, atmospheric rivers can become dangerous depending on their strength and duration.

It is expected that more storms — including at least two atmospheric rivers — are headed for B.C.’s  Southern Coast, with up to 80 millimetres of rain expected in Metro Vancouver, Howe Sound, Whistler and the Fraser Valley.

Environment Canada has warned that flooding could get worse, with Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth saying, “We are still in uncharted territory when it comes to these storms.”

Farnworth also added that there have been almost a dozen atmospheric rivers since mid-September.

“Having several destructive storms in a row is not anywhere near normal,” he said.

Multiple areas across the entire province have been heavily impacted by the flooding and are on a race against time to repair damages and to prep for the next set of storms.

Crews in the Sumas Prairie, an area which has seen many displaced peoples and thousands of animal deaths, are working to repair and strengthen their dike; the military has entered Princeton to help sandbag and protect the area from more flooding; and the route situation between Merritt and Spences bridge “remain very dire,” said Farnworth.

“The next nine or 10 days could be quite challenging.”

The impact on Indigenous Peoples

Many Indigenous peoples in B.C. were critically impacted by the flooding and mudslides, with numerous communities becoming isolated from the rest of the province.

The Shackan First Nation in B.C.’s Nicola Valley was evacuated, with roads and bridges connecting the reserve to the province being completely washed away. Chief Arnold Lampreau said it could take years before the infrastructure is rebuilt to allow residents to return.

The Chawathil First Nation is currently being assisted by the military after the Nation was cut off from power, Internet, and connection to the outside world due to the flooding and highway closures.

There are many more First Nations in the province that have been severely affected by the floods, said Stewart Phillip, Grand Chief of the Union of the B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC).  “I’ve been on Zoom calls for the last three or four days, listening to stories directly from the chiefs of communities that have been devastated,” he explained.

“It’s all over.”

“This cannot be framed within traditional notions of a one-time weather event, where we simply make superficial repairs to transportation infrastructure and then expect things to be OK,” said Phillip. “The devastation will have very serious long-term detrimental impacts on the land itself.”

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