"Water's going to be there for a number of weeks": no word when Abbotsford evacuees can return home

Dec 1 2021, 11:16 pm

Evacuated Abbotsford residents still don’t know when they’ll be able to return home, with floodwaters keeping many low-lying farms submerged after Tuesday’s atmospheric river storm.

The flooding didn’t get significantly worse during the storm, and Mayor Henry Braun said the community is looking forward to a few days with no forecasted heavy storms.

“It may not be actively raining, but there’s a lot of rainwater and snowmelt making its way down the mountain — from Baker, Vedder, and Sumas,” Braun said during a news conference Wednesday.

With the calendar turning to December, the city can officially say it received a third of a year’s worth of rain in the month of November. It smashed its previous November rainfall record, receiving 540 millimetres overall.

“If you’re from my generation, that’s just under two feet of water layered over the entire city,” Braun said during a news conference Wednesday.

Further east, Hope, BC, received even more rain — 730 millimetres for November, according to Environment Canada.

Water is still sitting on the low-lying Sumas Prairie, and Highway 1 connecting Abbotsford to Chilliwack is closed.

But at the same time, regional water modelling projections indicate water levels have stabilized. Braun also said the Nooksack River in the US has crested its peak, and it’s now not expected to overflow its banks and dump more water into Abbotsford.

He still couldn’t give an estimate on when evacuated residents could return to their properties, but he was hopeful it could be within days as floodwaters recede. Before residents can go back, Braun said Highway 1 needs to reopen, and so do Whatcom and Vye roads.

“That water’s going to be there for a number of weeks. We don’t really know what’s going to be there until that water recedes,” Braun said.

He added many residents will return to find significant damage to their homes, barns, and farm machinery. That’s in addition to dead livestock and destroyed crops, including prized blueberry plants, which take approximately four years to be productive.

“The longer term recovery of our community will be in partnership with provincial and federal governments, rebuilding critical infrastructure so we do not experience another event of this magnitude,” Braun said.

Megan DevlinMegan Devlin

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