‘Catastrophic’ flooding expected as City of Abbotsford doubles down on evacuation order

WATCH: Emergency officials provide an update in Abbotsford, B.C. on Wednesday amid ongoing flooding, evacuation order

The City of Abbotsford is doubling down on its evacuation order, urging all residents who remain in the Sumas Prairie to leave immediately amid further flooding that’s expected to be “catastrophic.”

An evacuation order was issued earlier Tuesday for the entire portion of the Sumas Prairie to the Chilliwack border in the eastern Fraser Valley after the torrential weekend rain.

But at a late-night news conference, Mayor Henry Braun said about 300 people, including farmers, have refused to leave.

Click to play video: 'B.C. floods: Abbotsford mayor says he’s never seen such extensive flooding in Sumas Prairie'
B.C. floods: Abbotsford mayor says he’s never seen such extensive flooding in Sumas Prairie

Sumas Prairie was once a lake, and is drained by a pump station that could fail anytime, Braun said. Four pumps are working at maximum capacity, but the water level continues to rise.

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“I know it’s hard for farmers to leave their livestock, but people’s lives are more important to me right now than livestock and chickens,” said Braun, who has his own cattle.

Police will go home to home for water rescues to get people out of the area, Abbotsford Police Chief Mike Serr said, and anyone who cannot leave the area is urged to call 911 immediately.

If the pump station fails, the city will use the province’s emergency response system to text the area about the emergency, Serr added.

Said the city in an earlier statement: “Additional water flow down from Sumas Mountain is also now creating further flooding in the area. This event is anticipated to be catastrophic.”

The city has already declared a local state of emergency and asked residents to leave immediately.

The province issued a news release late Tuesday evening where it said that federal and military assistance have been requested, both for the Sumas Prairie and B.C.’s flooding situation in general.

It also addressed why B.C.’s emergency alert system was not used.

“Emergency Management BC has been ready and available to issue a broadcast intrusive alert through the Alert Ready system. The City of Abbotsford has indicated that it does not want to issue an alert at this time.”

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The evacuation order affects the following areas:

  • Sumas Prairie
  • Sumas Mountain, DeLair Road, and Old Yale Road to the north, the U.S. border to the south, Chilliwack city border to the east, the Ridge West of railway to the west
  • Sumas Mountain and Old Yale Road to the north, the U.S. border to the south, the Sumas River Dyck to the east, Sumas Way to the west

Residents in the eastern part of the Sumas Prairie who cannot travel west to evacuate have been asked by Abbotsford police to travel east to Chilliwack Secondary School located at 46363 Yale Rd., where a reception centre has been set up.

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The evacuation orders affect about 1,100 homes in the area.

Ryan Ridd, a resident of Abbotsford’s Huntingdon community, said his wife and kids were rescued by firefighters while he was at work.

“One of the most helpless experiences of my life,” he described Tuesday, as he returned home to fetch supplies. “I felt completely guilty for going to work that day even though we had no idea.”

Ridd said his house is in good shape, although his garage and everything in it is ruined.

A look at a property in Abbotsford on the Sumas Prairie at North Parallel Road and No. 4 Road. Submitted
A look at a property in Abbotsford on the Sumas Prairie at North Parallel Road and No. 4 Road. submitted

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Continued flooding and subsequent road debris forced the province to close Highway 1 between Abbotsford and Hope Monday night.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the highway will be shut in both directions with no timeline for when it will reopen.

“Our first priority is for the safety of Abbotsford residents,” Mayor Henry Braun said Tuesday morning.

“All city resources are engaged in mitigating this emergency, including Abbotsford police, fire, rescue, engineering and public works.”

A state of emergency has also been declared in Chilliwack and residents are being asked to avoid non-essential travel as severe flooding closed off many arterial routes.

The Chilliwack River is moving very fast and the water levels are increasing drastically, city officials said Monday.

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– with a file from Elizabeth McSheffrey

Editor’s note: This is a corrected story. A previous version reported a “catastrophic” weather event was expected. It has been corrected to a “catastrophic” flooding event.  

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