Abbotsford, B.C. strengthening infrastructure, bracing for next atmospheric river

While the water level is dropping, hundreds of Sumas Prairie farms remain underwater, and are facing an uncertain future. Now facing the loss of crops, livestock and equipment -- some farmers are wondering how the recovery process will even begin. Rumina Daya reports.

The flood-ravaged city of Abbotsford, B.C., is continuing repairs to damaged dikes and infrastructure as it prepares for another bout of rainfall later this week.

Eighty per cent of repairs to the Sumas dike are now complete, Mayor Henry Braun said, and the city hopes to add another five feet of height before Thursday’s forecasted atmospheric river.

“We are using projections to anticipate water levels and how they will intersect with the status of our dikes,” he said in a Tuesday news conference.

“All of the repair and reinforcement work to the dikes so far have been done to ensure we have the best protection possible should the Nooksack River overflow again and water comes in from Washington state.”

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Between 40 and 80 millimetres of rain could hit the Fraser Valley — including Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Hope — between Wednesday night and Friday morning, according to Environment Canada forecasts.

The storm will be less intense, the federal department predicts, but it could make conditions worse in parts of the province that have already been damaged by the floods of Nov. 14 and 15.

On Tuesday, Braun encouraged residents to prepare for the possibility of a second evacuation by fuelling their vehicles and gathering emergency supplies, including food, water, and a flashlight.

“If you are looking to protect your property right now, sand and sandbags are available at both Albert Dyck Park and Yarrow Hardware,” he said.

“And as always, check on your neighbours — we’re in it for the long haul and we hope to be in the best position possible with the weather events to come.”

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There are four main areas of the city in need of dike repair, said Braun, but they make up less than one per cent of the entire diking system.

Repairs to the dikes near Barrowtown and Cole Road are complete, he added, and once the main dike breach is fully repaired, crews will move to the dike upstream of Atkinson Road.

Meanwhile, the city is fortifying the critical Barrowtown pump station with additional sandbags in anticipation of Thursday’s storm.

It’s also continuing rapid damage assessments on homes and businesses — a key process in gradually lifting evacuation orders.

As of Tuesday, the city reported engineering inspections for all 21 of its accessible bridges, 88 kilometres of roads and 357 culverts have been completed.

On Monday, Braun downgraded the evacuation order for Sumas Prairie north of Highway 1 between Sumas Way and Whatcom Road to an alert, allowing some residents to return home.

A new evacuation order has since been issued for two properties on Zurich Drive, and three additional properties on the same street are now on evacuation alert.

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On Tuesday, the city has shut down several intersections to accommodate sanitary sewer replacement work until Nov. 30, including Chilcotin Drive and Gladwin Road, and Gatefield Avenue and Gladwin Road.

Single-lane alternating traffic on Gladwin Road between Gatefield and Downes Road will be in effect until the end of the year, it advises.

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