Good evening, let’s start with today’s top story:
A powerful rain storm swept across southern British Columbia yesterday, unleashing floods and mudslides from Vancouver Island to the Alberta border, and trapping motorists, closing major highways and forcing the evacuation of thousands. Today, the extent of the destruction and disruption started to become apparent.
- The photos coming out of the B.C. flooding rescue operations and evacuations alone are shocking.
- Follow our explainer for the latest on what you need to know.
Fatalities have been confirmed
A mudslide on Highway 99 has killed at least one person and emergency crews are still searching the debris field south of Lillooet, B.C., after the unprecedented storm.
Witnesses told emergency officials about 10 vehicles were swept off the road, said David MacKenzie, the Pemberton District Search and Rescue manager. About seven of those have been located. “We’re hopeful to find people alive. But obviously that diminishes with time, the nature of the slide activity. People being caught up in mud and debris, it certainly diminishes as time goes by,” he said.
Search and rescue efforts
Today, search-and-rescue crews were also searching for anyone trapped in mud and debris east of Vancouver near Highway 7.
Emergency officials in Abbotsford, B.C., also announced a new evacuation order this morning affecting about 1,100 people in a rural area known as Sumas Prairie, just north of the U.S. border. The order applies to a largely rural area dotted by dairy and agricultural operations. Police chief Mike Serr said the rescue effort has been incredibly challenging, with water rising quickly.
B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, in an interview with CBC Tuesday morning, brushed aside suggestions that the province did not adequately prepare residents for the degree of severity of the storm that dumped a month’s worth of winter rains in hours.
Supply chain fallout
Now, washouts and mudslides have severed the rail links to the port of Vancouver, Canada’s largest marine hub for freight.
“Quite frankly, we’ll probably be out a couple more days. We’ve got some significant spots,” said Rob Reilly, Canadian National Railway’s chief operating officer. He says it could take several days to repair and restore service to the terminal that handles much of North America’s consumer goods from Asia.
It was still “too early to tell what the ultimate impacts are” said Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd.’s marketing chief, John Brooks, on a conference call with investors.
The climate connection
B.C. has not been able to catch a break recently. The West Coast heat wave this past summer was deadliest weather event in Canadian history, and the patterns of extreme weather were the result of human-caused climate change.
Flooding and other extreme weather events are also linked to a changing climate, and coastal cities experience the additional hazard of rising sea levels. A report from earlier this year found that Canada’s largest cities collectively made little or no progress in preparing for flooding over the past five years.
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