The City of Abbotsford has lifted the evacuation order for the north area of the Sumas Prairie, effective immediately, Mayor Henry Braun announced Friday.
This means that people can start returning to their homes, Braun said, but he cautioned that for many residents a return will not be easy.
Some homes may not be habitable, he said, although he does not know how many.
Braun said he knows people are anxious to return as water levels in the region dropped by about 12 inches in the past 24 hours due to the drier weather.
The city launched its “Return Home” plan Friday with the north area being the first region allowed home.
The other areas – the south, central and the lake bottom – remain under evacuation order and those residents will be allowed home when the waters recede, Braun said.
“The objective is to get as many people home as possible,” he added.
Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said at a media briefing Thursday the drier weather will be critical for the removal of carcasses of animals who died in the flooding.
“We know at this point there are 628,000 poultry reported dead, 420 dairy cattle deceased and approximately 12,000 hogs,” she said.
“And also of note, there (are) 110 beehives that have been submerged.”
It is not yet known how many bees could have died in the flooding.
There was some brighter news Friday, that only two per cent of the annual turkey production has been lost in the province and 98 per cent of the cows in the Sumas Prairie region survived the flooding.
Water levels are still over five feet deep in some areas and the damage is now needing to be assessed for not just hundreds of homeowners but also for the farming community, with their livelihoods on the line and the lost livestock that has been extremely difficult to process.
“They don’t want to think about those numbers, they don’t want to hear those numbers, they are very focused on moving ahead,” Popham said Friday morning. “They have a very big job to do cleaning up right now and every time they hear those numbers it puts them back a bit.”
Full recovery is still years in the making, she added.
“How do you get barns rebuilt, there is a lot of equipment lost, what insurance package covers lost equipment, for example,” Popham said.
“And we want to make sure we get all of that captured.”
The city of Abbotsford is also now focusing on doing what it needs to do to move forward.