‘Not out of this by a long shot’: Abbotsford, B.C., mayor on flooding, evacuations and forecast

Vancouver –

About 600 people have been forced to leave their homes in Abbotsford, B.C., and while some evacuation orders are lifting, many are still in place, the city’s mayor said in an update Thursday.

Mayor Henry Braun and emergency support staff gave an update on the developments that happened overnight. Dozens of people were rescued Tuesday and Wednesday, with 11 more people rescued overnight.

The water is receding in some areas, but Braun warned the city is “not out of this by a long shot,” and some situations will get more complicated particularly as water is still flowing from the flooded Nooksack River in Washington state.

“This is a situation that we are very closely monitoring,” Braun said. “The water has been receding at a pretty good clip for the last 24 hours on the western side. But the Nooksack continues to come across the border … and is why the water is rising.”

Braun said he spoke to one farmer who noticed the water level has actually risen 15 centimetres along Interprovincial Highway, between No. 2 and No. 3 roads.

RAIN IN FORECAST

In spite of some rain expected Thursday, Braun said he’s more worried about the weather ahead.

“I am not concerned about today’s rain. What I’m concerned about is next week and what’s coming. There’s predicted 80 to 100 millimetres of rain coming next week beginning Tuesday,” he said. “That’s what I’m concerned about if we don’t fix those breaches, because the Nooksack could go back up again.”

Braun said there is still more water coming into the city’s system than is being pumped out.

“We need to just manage as best we can to stop the water from coming into Sumas Prairie,” he said. “That water cannot drain anywhere because it’s the lowest point. That water has to be pumped out by those Barrowtown pumps, which is why they were installed.”

Braun said an estimate is coming of how long it’ll take for the water to be pumped out of flooded areas.

“We are not talking days. We are talking weeks,” he said. “I just don’t know how many weeks.”

EVACUATION ORDERS LIFTING

Evacuation orders in some areas are beginning to lift, primarily where there was smaller, localized flooding, but officials are warning people to not become complacent.

“The local state of emergency continues to evolve and we will keep everyone updated as we can,” Braun said. “The safety of Abbotsford residents remains everyone’s priority.”

Abbotsford Police Department Chief Mike Serr said many roads “are still impacted.”

“People are getting frustrated. They want to get through our city,” he said. “But we have to ensure through engineering and other things that our roads are safe.”

Braun said there are 40 people in the evacuation-order zones who still haven’t left their homes, adding that farmers in the city “are devastated.”

“These farms are second-, third-, maybe even fourth-generation farmers and they love their cattle, they love their land and they don’t want to move. I get that,” Braun said. “They want to look after their investments because a lot of them have lost their investments.”

An updated list of evacuation orders is available on the city’s website.

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