Three days of heavy rain have caused flooding, road closures and evacuations in southern British Columbia.
B.C. is experiencing what Environment Canada is calling a “significant atmospheric river”. Public Weather Alerts for British Columbia has issued rainfall, snowfall and wind warnings for much of the province.
Intense flooding has forced thousands out of their homes due to evacuation orders.
As of Monday morning the entire city of Merritt, population 7,100, has been ordered to evacuate. Flooding in the area has “inundated two bridges across the Coldwater River, and … prevent(ed) access to the third”, reads the evacuation order.
“High floodwaters have rendered the City’s Wastewater Treatment Plant inoperable for an indefinite period,” the report continues. “Continued habitation of the community without sanitary services presents risk of mass sewage back-up and personal health risk.”
Residents are being asked to make arrangements with friends or family until it is safe to return. Residents with nowhere to go are encouraged to head to emergency service centres in Kamloops and Kelowna.
“Merritt is and will remain strong,” Mayor Linda Brown said. “Please, offer help to your friends, families, and neighbours, drive safely, and take care of yourselves. We will meet each other again, in our homes, where we belong.”
A number of other areas have received evacuation orders. On Sunday, dozens of homes in the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen were evacuated. On Monday, The city of Abbotsford also evacuated, declaring a state of local emergency due to mudslides and flooding.
“This is a serious event. I’ve lived here for 68 years and I’ve not seen this kind of rainfall in 68 years so we are very concerned about the safety of our residents and their properties,” Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said.
The mudslides and flooding have also caused road closures across the interior. Dozens of vehicles were trapped on major highways including Highway 7, where about 275 people, 50 of which were kids, were trapped overnight Sunday. The Canadian armed forces rescued them Monday afternoon.
The federal government has said they will provide help for all those affected by the extreme weather event.
“We’re ready to provide whatever assistance is needed as you deal with and recover from the flooding and this extreme weather,” Justin Trudeau said. “We’re here for you.”
Rain is not in the forecast for Tuesday and although the wind is still expected it should subside.