Heavy rain, potential floods as latest atmospheric river sweeps over B.C.

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VANCOUVER — The latest atmospheric rivers to wash over British Columbia's south coast were predicted to bring up to 15 centimetres of rain in a series of waves that won't relent until Thursday, Environment Canada said Tuesday.

Rainfall warnings covered western Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast and southern coast, including Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. The storm's first torrent on Tuesday was forecast to be followed by a second intense gush Wednesday and a final blast Thursday, said the weather office.

Forecasters warned warmer temperatures coming with the storm would push freezing levels higher by Wednesday, melting snowpacks and swelling area waterways.

Meteorologist Bobby Sekhon said while this is the latest storm to hit the weather-battered region over the past six months, he wouldn’t describe it as “extreme.”

“It’s all about the combination of things. What we’re dealing with here is we had a very snowy and cold stretch for the last three or four weeks … and the concern, as always, is as we get heavy rain and melting temperatures, that can create a recipe for flooding,” Sekhon said.

Sekhon said Environment and Climate Change Canada is continuing to work on a ranking system for atmospheric rivers.

Emergency Management BC urged homeowners to prepare for potential floods by clearing storm drains, cleaning gutters and confirming where sandbags can be picked up from local governments.

The River Forecast Centre posted high streamflow advisories for rivers and creeks across all of Vancouver Island and the south coast.

Avalanche Canada raised the risk of a slide on Vancouver Island, the south coast and Sea-to-Sky mountains to high, meaning very dangerous avalanche conditions exist.

"Wait out this storm," said a post on the Avalanche Canada website, advising that travel on southern coastal mountains was not recommended until conditions improve.

"Expect loose, wet avalanches to be widespread at all elevations, and easily triggered," the site said.

Although Abbotsford, which experienced catastrophic flooding in November, was covered by rain warnings linked to the storm, forecasts showed the region would likely dodge the worst of the downpours.

Environment Canada said that part of the Fraser Valley could see no more than 10 mm of rain Tuesday, up to 40 mm overnight and a maximum of 20 mm Wednesday.

The city remains under a state of emergency, which was declared as rivers rose in November, flooding the Sumas Prairie.

Abbotsford issued a warning to residents in low-lying areas to prepare for the potential of localized flooding.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 11, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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