Abbotsford says it prepared as much as it could for storms

As prepared as possible

Southern British Columbians braced for another severe storm Saturday, with a new set of evacuation alerts issued and officials in an already devastated agricultural community warning of another possible river overflow.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun told a news conference Saturday that the city has done everything it can with provincial and federal support to prepare, but the Nooksack River in Washington state presented an "unknown factor."

The river's dikes in Whatcom County were damaged in recent flooding and it's unknown exactly how much of Sunday's anticipated spillover the saturated land could absorb, Braun said.

"The rain we can handle, I'm pretty confident of that. What we can't handle is if the Nooksack overflows and starts emptying again into Sumas Prairie," he said.

The mayor said he impressed the importance of supporting critical diking and drainage infrastructure when he met Friday with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan.

"If we are not supported and the Barrowtown pump station fails, we expect there will be eight feet or more of water over Trans Canada Highway 1 for months, which could result in a critical transportation route for residents, goods and services for the Lower Mainland being out of commission for up to a year," Braun said.

Weather warnings blanketed much of the province's south Saturday, with rainfall expected to intensify Saturday night, easy Sunday afternoon and return again early next week.

By Saturday afternoon, local governments had issued evacuation alerts for low-lying areas in the Nicola Valley near Merritt and Spences Bridge, as well as the Pemberton Meadows area.

The Transportation Ministry proactively closed several highways between the Lower Mainland and Interior that were previously affected by major flooding. The highway segments had only been open to essential traffic as the province worked to restore damaged infrastructure and manage a gas shortage caused by the disaster.

The closed highways include Highway 3 between Hope and Princeton, Highway 1 between Hope and Popkum, Highway 1 in the Fraser Canyon and Highway 99 between Pemberton and Lillooet.

"The highway infrastructure in these areas is extremely vulnerable following recent storm events. More heavy rain in the forecast poses an additional risk," the ministry said in a statement.

The length of the closures will depend on weather and they will be re-evaluated Sunday morning, it said.

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