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Heavy rain, winds converge in B.C. as 'atmospheric river' arrives

VANCOUVER — Drenching rain, heavy snow, strong winds and high tides converged on coastal and southern British Columbia Monday.

The province's River Forecast Centre issued flood watches for rivers and streams in Metro Vancouver, the south coast and the Lower Fraser regions, while Vancouver Island and the Nicola and Similkameen regions are under high streamflow advisories.

Environment Canada said Monday a "potent and impactful" atmospheric river was set to make landfall on southwestern B.C., with as much as 150 millimetres of rain predicted for Western Vancouver Island.

The forecast prompted the Transportation Ministry to order a 20-kilometre stretch of Highway 1 south of Lytton to close starting Monday night through to Tuesday morning because of the danger of heavy rain undermining stability of the area.

"The ministry's geotechnical experts have recommended this closure as a precaution in case heavy precipitation overwhelms the area affected by this summer's Kookipi Creek wildfire," the ministry statement said.

"Checkpoints will be set up on Highway 1 just outside of Hope and Lytton to advise motorists about the detour routes and assist local traffic."

The ministry said drivers can use highways 3 or 5 as a detour, but it warns that the storm is also bringing rain, snow and winter driving conditions to those routes.

Inland Vancouver Island, the Howe Sound region and parts of Metro Vancouver, including the North Shore, Coquitlam and Maple Ridge, were expecting up to 100 millimetres of rain.

In Greater Victoria and Metro Vancouver, Environment Canada was also forecasting high tides exceeding normal levels that may cause minor coastal flooding to exposed shorelines, an advisory that has since been lifted.

Further north, winds gusting up to 120 km/h prompted warnings from the weather agency on Monday for northern Vancouver Island, Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii.

BC Hydro reported that a downed tree across power lines caused an outage affecting about 1,400 customers on Graham Island on Haida Gwaii for much on Monday.

The "atmospheric river" was also expected to hit the southern Kootenay region in B.C.'s Interior, with the Elk Valley near Fernie and parts of Highway 3 expecting up to 100 millimetres of rain starting late Monday and lasting until Thursday.

Environment Canada said drivers on the Sea to Sky Highway from Squamish to Whistler and the Coquihalla Highway from Hope to Merritt should be cautious of heavy rains that could raise the risk of flooding and landslides along the routes.

The agency also issued a winter storm warning for the Trans-Canada Highway from Sicamous to Golden, with up to 15 centimetres of snow expected along with ice pellets and the possibility of freezing rain.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2023.

The Canadian Press