Jun 20, 2012 / 10:00 pm
Langley residents living along unprotected banks of the Fraser River were securing cherished possessions as an evacuation alert in the township was added to several provincial communities preparing for potential flooding.
Emergency management co-ordinators warned Wednesday that water levels were expected to rise rapidly within the next 24 to 36 hours, resulting from a shot of warm weather through Friday that would melt snowpacks, followed by heavy rains.
The Fraser River from Prince George south through the Lower Mainland, as well as the Shuswap and Thompson rivers, appeared to be most threatened.
"I feel it's not going to be as bad as they think it's going to be," said Bill Cunningham, who lives about 150 metres from the Fraser River in Langley. "We're slowly getting ready to move whatever."
The 77-year-old said he's lived in the neighbourhood all his life and has experienced similar flood concerns about once a decade. The worst he recalls was in 1948.
"We might have to move out because it'll be a little difficult getting in and out because of water," he said, before getting in his car with his wife to go stay at his daughter's home. "But I don't think it'll even be that bad."
Cunningham lives among 147 homes in an unprotected swath of land that also snakes through farm properties and industrial businesses, which could also be at risk. The rest of the region is not vulnerable to flooding thanks to hefty dikes.
Mandeep Saran received a knock on her door in the early afternoon from a search and rescue worker who was canvassing the neighbourhood to inform residents of the alert.
She was asked about the six members of her family and told that if the river does rise, authorities might shut down road access.
"We're not too worried," said 29-year old Saran, noting her family would decide later in the day if they would leave. "It can come, we are trying to collect our important documents."
The Langley Township alert extends into the Glen Valley area of Abbotsford, in regions where there are no dikes.
Roeland Zwaag, director of Langley public works, said the alert was triggered when river levels reached about 5.5 metres in Mission, and levels are expected to peak at about one metre higher.
"We're asking people to plan," he said. "In case you are requested to relocate, have some alternate accommodations ready, family or friends. As we are dealing with the farming community, as there are livestock involved, be prepared to move the livestock to a safe area. Have an emergency kit ready."
The forecasted timeline for the Fraser River to crest has sped up in the past day, with the head of the BC River Forecast Centre predicting the high will occur late Thursday.
"We've got rapid rising going on now and it's going to continue," David Campbell said.
"The peaking itself, once we get into the higher flows, the flow rates of rise slows down and then you hit the peak and then it's held elevated for some time."
The river peaked at 10.02 metres in Prince George early Wednesday morning. Since then, water has been flowing south and is expected to reach 6.5 metres when it gets to Mission.
People living in 18 homes remained on evacuation order Wednesday, when the river was expected to remain at about 9.44 metres.
Chris Bone, spokeswoman for the Prince George emergency operations centre, said people are anxious this year because such levels haven't been seen since 1972 in that region.
"For many of the individuals it's a cyclical event that they've experienced before, but nonetheless, that doesn't take away the angst."
More than 500 kilometres downstream, Mission fire chief Ian Fitzpatrick has been monitoring the water gauge each morning and afternoon.
He said about 25 homes and about another six at a nearby trailer park were situated in risky areas, along with several mills and manufacturing fabrication shops.
The scenario is similar to 2007 when wetter weather and a large melting snowpack was to blame for increased preparations, Fitzpatrick said.
"If we just had the direct snowmelt, without any other effects on the river, we'd probably be fine. But it's these weather patterns that come in and give us the unknown. I think that's going to be the problem this weekend."
The historic high for the Fraser River was 8.9 metres in 1894. The next significant flooding year was 1948, when waters rose to 8.2 metres.
The biggest floods since then occurred in 1972, at 7.1 metres, while 2007 crested at 6.0 metres.
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