Evacuation orders have been rescinded for some properties in the flooded city of Abbotsford, B.C.
The change affects properties north of Highway 1 between Sumas Way and Whatcom Road, along with businesses east of Whatcom Road, said Mayor Henry Braun on Monday.
Those residents can return, but must remain cautious as the area remains under an evacuation alert.
“I know people are eager to return to their homes and businesses, however, of the top importance is that we ensure they can do so as safely as possible,” Braun said in a news update.
Hundreds of people were displaced from the Sumas Prairie region and thousands of livestock died as a result of the Nov. 14-15 atmospheric river, which brought record-breaking rain, mudslides and landslides.
Rapid damage assessments have been completed in areas where evacuation orders were lifted Monday, said Braun, and each property has a green, yellow or red placard on the door that indicates the building’s safety grade.
According to the city’s website, “green” indicates that reentry is permitted at the owner’s discretion if the building is not in an active evacuation order area. “Yellow” indicates restricted access based on conditions outlined on the placard, and “red” means reentry is not permitted without formal authorization.
Over the weekend, city crews were able to stop the flow of floodwater into the Sumas Prairie, sealing the breach in the Sumas Dike near No. 3 Road.
Water levels in the Fraser River had dropped enough for city staff to open the floodgates at the critical Barrowtown pump station, allowing water to be diverted from the swollen Sumas River away from the badly flooded prairie.
Water from the flooded Nooksack River in Washington state, a key source of the problem, has also ceased flowing across the border into the Sumas River.
Two crews are now working full-time on the South Sumas dike west of Atkinson Road, said Braun.
Meanwhile, the city has sandbags to spare and said anyone in need can pick them up at Yarrow Hardware on the east side of the prairie.
Crews have assessed all accessible bridges that may have been damaged by the floods, along with 88 kilometres of local roads and 229 culverts.
“Again, we need water levels to abate to continue much of this work, because there’s still a big lake out there,” said Braun.
More than 100 members of the Canadian Armed Forces continue to support the city’s relief efforts, the mayor added, delivering feed, cleaning out culverts, walking along dikes to search for weaknesses.
The province has also opened sections of Highway 1 between Highway 11 east to Cole Road to provide emergency access to agricultural operations in the area.
The two eastbound lanes will be used for two-way travel with speed restrictions and traffic control measures, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure said Monday.
The city has extended its local state of emergency to Nov. 29, while a province-wide state of emergency remains in effect.
The remnants of an atmospheric river that arrived on B.C.’s North Coast on Sunday are projected to bring more rain to the South Coast by mid-week, according to Environment Canada.
“While each day we are starting to see more glimmers of hope and good news, we are still a long ways away from being out of danger,” said Braun.
“We continue to work with Emergency Management BC and Environment Canada on detailed weather projections so we can utilize this information with our planning.”
To date, the floods in B.C. have killed at least four people and countless animals, displaced thousands, and destroyed critical infrastructure, including highways. Anyone wishing to donate to relief efforts can do so via the Red Cross website, the United Way BC Flood Response Fund, or verified online GoFundMe campaigns.
– With files from Simon Little