B.C. to be hit by a ‘parade of storms’ that could significantly hamper flood recovery work

The soil is still saturated in many areas, which means there is very little place for the additional rain to go but stay above ground

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British Columbians already submerged in record-levels of precipitations should brace themselves for a further “parade of storms” that will hit the Lower Mainland over the next week and exacerbate the current disaster, warns Environment Canada.


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“The forecast going forward for the south coast (of B.C.) is very wet. That’s the short and the long of it,” said Environment and Climate Change Canada’s warning preparedness meteorologist Armel Castellan during a technical briefing with media on Monday.

“We’ve had obviously a very wet fall and we are going to continue with a parade of storms.”

Of most concern currently for Environment Canada is a warm “atmospheric river” (also known as a “tropical punch” or a “pineapple express”) that will bring in both rain and higher temperatures, meaning that water from snow melt in the mountains will add to the flooding in nearby valleys.

This will be particularly felt in the Fraser Valley as well as the north shore mountains, Castellan said.


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“We’re talking about 40 to 70 millimeters in the Fraser Valley, and potentially upwards of 100 millimeters in the north shore mountains,” particularly around Howe Sound fjord just north of Vancouver, he warned.

Though the total amount of rain is expected to be lower than the record downfall that battered Lower Mainland B.C. last weekend and led to devastating flooding and the province’s third state of emergency in one year, Environment Canada said that the soil in many places is still full of moisture.


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That means that there is very little place for the additional rain to go but stay above ground.

“When you have a parade of storms, or an incredible fall as we’ve seen since middle of September with upwards of 200 per cent of normal rain for much of the south coast and even into the southwest interior, the soils are very saturated,” Castellan said. “So, a lot of the moisture that is coming is more immediately a runoff issue.”

Ultimately, both Environment Canada and the B.C. government expect this week’s rain to vastly exacerbate the current disaster, adding chaos to an already tragic situation that has seen thousands displaced from their homes, crucial rail and road infrastructure damaged, countless farm animals lost and at least four dead in a mudslide last week.


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Monday, B.C. government officials warned that the additional rain could significantly hamper current flood recovery as workers and residents desperately try to reconnect highways, railroads, bridges all the while rebuilding or repairing dikes.

“There’s no question we have a lot of work ahead,” provincial Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said during a press briefing Monday.

We have a lot of work ahead

B.C. officials also revealed that the government is working with Environment Canada in order to create a new ranking system similar to those for tornadoes or hurricanes for atmospheric rivers to help residents assess the level of risk.

“I think it will assist us greatly in understanding exactly what the nature of an atmospheric river is,” said B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Fanworth. “They have a ranking system in the (U.S.) that will allow us to prepare more effectively.”


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The minister added that implementation of such a ranking system could begin in January.

Environment Canada confirmed that such a system is currently in the works, noting that it will be important to distinguish a more commonplace and low-risk atmospheric system to one that could bring similar levels of precipitations seen over the past week.

“A scale has great potential for very clear communication,” Castellan added. “The first couple levels of an atmospheric river are actually very beneficial. In California, they rely on this kind of precipitation movement across the planet in order to fill the reservoirs.”

“Of course, when we get to potentially levels three, four, five, and perhaps the scale goes even beyond five, that’s going to be a discussion that that brings a lot of awareness to emergency management, decision makers and also the greater public.”

Environment Canada also warned that Canadians and residents of B.C. should expect to see more and stronger atmospheric rivers in the future.

“As we go deeper into the 21st century, we’re going to see stronger atmospheric rivers on our coast and I think we need to be very much prepared for that signal to be amplified,” Castellan told reporters.

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