The City of Abbotsford was braced for more flooding heading into Sunday, as the Nooksack River across the border in Washington state topped its banks.
Mayor Henry Braun told a news conference that officials in Whatcom County advised him shortly before 2 p.m. that the river had begun to flood.
“We expect that flow to reach Abbotsford later today,” Braun said.
“There’s some pooling that’s taking place between the Nooksack River and Emmerson Road (in Washington). Once that area, which is a significant area, is filled, it’s going to go over Main Street, then it’s headed here — there’s nothing to stop it after that.”
Highway 1 between McCallum Road and Yale Road closed at 5 p.m. because of the threat of flooding.
Earlier that morning, residents of 90 properties in the Huntingdon Village area along the U.S. border were ordered to evacuate, as localized flooding from rain and snowmelt moved north.
The Canadian Armed Forces has sandbagged around the village, but Braun said that effort will do nothing to keep floodwaters from the Nooksack out of the rest of Abbotsford.
Adding to the concern, the city said Sunday it was forced to close the floodgates at the Barrowtown pump station, which could put additional pressure on the already stressed Sumas dike.
The floodgates had been draining water from the swollen Sumas River into the Fraser River.
“This is due to the Fraser River and Vedder Canal rising, on the other side of the gates,” a spokesperson for the city’s Emergency Operations Centre said.
“The gates will remain closed until those water levels are below the Sumas River levels.”
Braun said the around-the-clock efforts of contractors and the military to repair and buttress dikes protecting the already flooded Sumas Prairie lowlands had positioned the city well, but that many unknowns remained.
“We are in better shape than we were with the Sumas dike before the first event,” he said.
“We are ready, as ready as we can be. What we don’t know is was there any damage done to the integrity of the dike that we can’t see.”
All dike repairs were complete, and work to raise it by half a metre for several kilometres southwest of the Barrowtown pump station was half done, Braun said. The pump station itself remained operational.
Police have acknowledged that some residents of Huntingdon village had not evacuated the area as ordered.
“It’s serious. We want them to leave. We can’t force them to leave, but we are advising them to leave,” Const. Paul Walker told Global News.
“At some point, if the water does come, and we anticipate it coming, there might be an opportunity where we can’t get to everyone at one time safely. So we want people to leave as soon as possible.”
Evacuee Amang Kang described the situation as extremely stressful.
“It’s very hard. I just recently moved to this neighbourhood,” he said.
“It’s very frightening. I don’t know what to say, I’m kind of speechless. I’ve never had an experience like this before. I never thought it’s going to happen here.”
Meanwhile, a rainfall warning for Metro Vancouver was rescinded Sunday afternoon, but remained in place for the Fraser Valley.
The ongoing rain storm had delivered about 100 mm of rain to the Abbotsford area, Braun said, raising water levels in the Sumas Prairie by about 7.6 cm.
The prairie remained under an evacuation order, while the city remained under a state of local emergency.
Localized flooding had also cropped up in the Clayburn area, and the city was closely watching the Arnold area.
Clayburn Road between Highway 11 and Wright Street was under about 45 cm of water, and closed as a result, Braun said.
Additionally, the Fraser Valley Regional District issued an evacuation order for two properties along Chilliwack Lake Road in the Chilliwack River Valley due to landslide risk.
In neighboring Chilliwack, crews worked overnight patrolling dikes and culverts.
Residents were warned that the heavy rains had stressed the city sewer system, and were asked to reduce their non-essential water use until at least Thursday.
A third atmospheric river, possibly one of even greater intensity, is forecast to arrive on Tuesday.
Dozens of communities remain on flood watch and weather alerts are posted across southern B.C.
As a preemptive measure, Highway 1 through the Fraser Canyon, Highway 3 between Hope and Princeton and Highway 99 between Pemberton and Lillooet were closed on Saturday amid storm warnings. Reopening will depend on weather conditions.
– With files from the Canadian Press and Ahmar Khan