Sunday 21 November 2021

Lower Mainland Devastated by Floods and Mudslides from "Atmospheric River"

This blog has always been a space to share fun discoveries with you. Today we are going to be taking a pause from the whimsy and food to acknowledge the events unfolding in the Fraser Valley in British Columbia. The property I purchased is in the Fraser Valley, but at this time I am living at my parent's house which is in Metro Vancouver, the region west of the Fraser Valley. 

I woke up on Monday, November 15th to harrowing winds and aggressive rainfall. Leaves and small twigs were being smashed up against my bedroom window by the ongoing storm. Rain is a normal part of Vancouver, so at no point did it phase me. It never even crossed my mind that things could get worse and I should not be going to work. By the time I was off from work, the sky had cleared in Vancouver and the pools of water were slowly draining away. 

The part of Vancouver that I grew up in has long been the butt of all flooding and sinking-related jokes. The highway bisecting my city and several major streets were flooded to my knees. Now simply imagine the relief that me, my family and everyone else that lives in the region felt when the city was able to get control of the flooding. 

Major Canadian Highways Destroyed

I am still trying to process how my "flood-prone" region managed to get away unscathed. Perhaps it is simply a miracle. I do not know. All I know is that I could have been in the position that so many are in now in the Fraser Valley. Severe flooding has caused mudslides which have completely obliterated large sections of the Coquihalla Highway and Highway 1 aka the Trans Canada Highway. With the highways destroyed, the connection between West and Eastern Canada has been severed. Which is going to wreak havoc on the economy because there is no way for truck shipments to reach us. Considering this is an extenuating circumstance, drivers were instructed to take a detour. This detour involves crossing the Canadian-USA border into Washington and then driving back up to Canada. All COVID-19 related requirements like PCR testing, vaccines etc have been suspended as the current priority is to get displaced families to safety. 

The current timeline for repairing and re-opening the major highways is estimated to be half a year. Considering we are heading into winter which means lots of snowfall and inclement weather, it is only reasonable to assume that the highway opening is going to be pushed. There are reports that Highway 1 east of Chilliwack has been reopened for emergency travel, but the west direction remains closed. 

Fraser Valley Flooding

My heart goes out to every single person that has been effected by the storm and subsequent floods and mudslides. The pictures from Sumas Valley of Abbotsford are terrifying. In some instances, the water has reached the second level of buildings. To make matters worse, a raging fire has broken out at an RV Dealership involving 100 RVs. The fire began at some point in the morning on Wednesday, November 17, 2021; however, the fire is in the flooded region posing significant challenges to the firefighters (Times Colonist). 

It has been 1 week since the fatal rainstorm and the flooding still persists in several regions of the Fraser Valley. Families continue to be displaced and cut off from the surrounding cities. The Canadian Armed Forces are on the ground helping clear regions and bring people to safety, but the true heroes in the community. People from the flooded regions and outside of those areas are coming together to help in any way that they can. 100s of hot nutrition meals are being flown in by helicopter by the Guru Nanak's Free Kitchen from the Downtown Eastside. In addition, several other personal plane and helicopter owners are flying in supplies and bringing people out of flooded regions for free. 

Prior to the flooding, I was not aware that several regions of the Fraser Valley have been artifically created by pumping out water. The four Barrowtown Pumps are a critical part of infrastructure. A staggering half million gallons of water is pumped per minute from the Sumas Lake Canal and back into the Fraser River. The land in this region is very fertile making it prime agricultural land. Only time will tell if the pumps can stand up against the immense pressure from the flood water. 

Humans or Livestock: The Difficult Choice

Homes are not the only buildings underwater. There are so many farms in the Fraser Valley, many of them being livestock farms. The larger farms rely on dairy cows,  chickens, goats etc to make a living. To us, it might seem easy to replace animals, but imagine being a family farm and suddenly needing to replace 15,000 chickens and that is exactly what one farmer is having to take into consideration. Monday November 15th, the farmer was staying hopeful that the water would begin to recede, but have since as of Tuesday November 16th 5 PM evacuated due to the water level rising by several inches with no sign of slowing down (CTV). 

The order for Immediate Evacuation is in place and farmers are being instructed to abandon their animals. The onset of the flood was sudden. Some smaller farms were able to move their animals to safety, but there is no way one can organize to relocate several 100 dairy cows. Have you seen how large a dairy cow is! They are massive! Not to mention cows can be timid and if they decide they do not want to move then there is nothing you can do about it. 

Fraser Valley Farms make up 50% of all BC Eggs, Chickens and Dairy Products! A whopping 45,000 dairy cows. A large chicken farm can average 25,000 birds EACH (CTV)

The effort continues to rescue young calves and smaller animals from the flooded farms via personal boats; however, a full grown dairy cow that can top out at 900 KG to me seems like an impossible task with flood waters still so high. 

Staying Strong as a Community

Everyone is doing what they can to help those that are in need of support. I hope the water will begin to drain from the valley because the real work will begin after the water has dissipated. So many homes and businesses are going to be needing repairs and rebuilt. Water is extremely damaging to structures, especially when the water is several feet high for over a week now. 

A Simple Reminder: Be Gentle


No comments:

Post a Comment