Damage to BC highways, including the Coquihalla, is still being assessed

Highway damage extensive

UPDATE 5:00 p.m.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth could not say how long some highways might be closed after mudslides and flooding cut off most routes between the Southern Interior and the Lower Mainland.

Extensive damage is reported on several routes , including the Coquihalla Highway, where whole portions of road were reportedly washed away.

Geotechnical assessments are underway. There have been aircraft out looking at exactly the state of the damage.

Farnworth said on some highways it may be as simple as removing debris and ensuring the road is good for vehicle traffic to go through again.

“In the case of the Coquihalla, I have not seen a detailed report on that, but from what I have heard, there does appear to be a significant issue on one side of the highway. Obviously we’re going to have to wait for the full geotechnical reports on that before we’re able to say, look, it’s going to be open in X amount of days or X amount of weeks.”

The new threat is strong wind and in the Interior, colder air.

“On the highways, the freezing levels are going to drop. So, even if you’re not dealing with snow because you’re not dealing with precipitation any more, we’re dealing with something like a flash freeze warning Not quite at that level, but still I believe there will be some localized freezing of the water that has fallen, said Armel Castellan, Warning Preparedness Meteorologist with Environment Canada.

A new highway closure will take effect on Highway 1 this evening in the Fraser Valley.

The highway will be closed starting at 7 p.m. PST between Highway 11 and No. 3 Road, due to the flood warning on the Sumas River.

UPDATE 3:05 p.m.

The province will be giving another live update on the flooding at 4 p.m. PST.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth will be joined by officials from Emergency Management BC, the River Forecast Centre, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and Environment and Climate Change Canada.

UPDATE 12:40 p.m.

A new mudslide has reportedly come down on Highway 12 south of Lillooet.

DriveBC said crews were on their way to assess the slide, reported about 25 kilometres south of Lillooet. Highway 12 connects the community to Lytton.

UPDATE 12:15 p.m.

A portion of the Trans-Canada Highway has reopened between Sicamous and Revelstoke.

Hwy 1 was closed in the area due to rocks on the road, but they have been cleared.

However, DriveBC is still cautioning travellers that driving conditions are constantly changing and you should drive with care and watch for debris on roadways.

UPDATE 11:35 a.m.

Two more B.C. highways have been closed.

Highway 99 is off limits in the Lillooet area due to a new mudslide. It is closed from Lil'wat Pl to Texas Creek Rd for 44.6 km.

To the east, Highway 93 is shut because of flooding. It’s closed between the end of Highway 93 and St. Joseph St for 93.9 km (British Columbia and Alberta Border to Radium Hot Springs).

UPDATE 10:50 a.m.

Photos circulating on social media suggest it will be days before the Coquihalla Highway is restored.

A photo taken near the Othello Road exit shows a large chunk of Highway 5 completely washed out by the adjacent river.

This morning Minister of Safety Mike Farnworth said he was unable to comment on the status of the highway when asked about the photos.

There is believed to be multiple slides on the Coquihalla, with the Ministry of Transportation sharing an video update on the slide at Mine Creek Road.

ORIGINAL 10 a.m.

The rainfall totals are staggering, and it’s still coming down in many parts of B.C., causing widespread flooding and washing out highways, leaving dozens of people trapped.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth held a Monday morning news conference to update the situation.

Environment Canada said 225 millimetres of rain had deluged the community of Hope since the storm began Saturday and 180 millimetres had fallen around Agassiz and Chilliwack.

The District of Kent, which includes Agassiz, issued a local state of emergency after landslides severed Highway 7.

Farnworth said 80 to 100 people were trapped in their vehicles between two slides on Highway 7. Others are stuck on parts of Highway 3 and Highway 5.

He said Canada Task Force 1, a heavy urban search and rescue team, has been dispatched to the scene on Highway 7, but the weather could hamper rescue efforts. Helicopters might have to be used to get some people out, but high winds in the forecast could make that difficult.

As of this morning, closures continue on the Coquihalla, Fraser Canyon and Hope-Princeton highways to the coast as well as on the Trans-Canada Highway to Alberta, between Revelstoke and Golden.

Highway 5, The Coquihalla Highway, is closed by a mudslide south of the Great Bear Snowshed with no estimated time of reopening available. Damage is reported to the highway. Farnworth said geotechnical experts will be flying over the area to assess the extent of the damage, and until that happens, they won’t know how long it will take to get the route reopened.

Farnworth added that Highway 1 could open west of Hope at 5 p.m. Many travellers had to spend the night in the town, without electricity, which was knocked out by landslides.

A travel advisory is in effect between Golden and Revelstoke, with a closure west of Revelstoke due to rockfall. Travel is not recommended unless absolutely necessary, DriveBC advises.

On Highway 3, there is flooding at Princeton, and the highway is closed. An assessment is in progress.
Highway 5A at Princeton is also closed due to flooding.

In southeastern B.C., a closure has ended on Highway 93 between Radium Hot Springs and Banff, but a snowfall travel advisory remains in effect.

Highway 3 between Fernie and Elko is closed due to flooding. A detour is in place.

Environment Canada said rain along the coast and snow in the eastern part of the province wasn't expected to let up until sometime later Monday. About 50 centimetres blanketed Highway 1 through the Rogers Pass and another 25 centimetres was expected.

"The snow level is expected to briefly rise to near Rogers Pass this afternoon, and snow may change to rain," said the weather office post. "However, rain will change back to snow this evening and additional accumulations are possible before the snow eases to scattered flurries late tonight."

Forecasters also warned of powerful winds over Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and the southwest Interior later in the day — with gusts up to 90 km/h — which could add to power outages that affected more than 16,000 customers, mainly in the eastern Fraser Valley, on Sunday night.

Environment Canada Meteorologist Armel Castellan noted the rainfall over the past 24 to 36 hours in some parts of the province is more than the entire total for a typical November, which is usually one of the wettest months.

with files from the Canadian Press

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