Highways closed around B.C. as rain batters province, leading to mudslides and flood warnings

·3 min read
A mudslide closed Highway 1 between Popkum and Hope, B.C., east of Chilliwack. Rains throughout the province have led to treacherous conditions, closing the Coquihalla and other key highways. (B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Safety - image credit)
A mudslide closed Highway 1 between Popkum and Hope, B.C., east of Chilliwack. Rains throughout the province have led to treacherous conditions, closing the Coquihalla and other key highways. (B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Safety - image credit)

Drivers are being asked to avoid any unnecessary travel in B.C. after rainstorms led to mudslides and multiple highway closures throughout the province.

According to DriveBC, a mudslide just after the Great Bear Snowshed poured over the southbound lanes of the Coquihalla with rocky debris covering the road.

At around 10 a.m., Highway 1 was also closed due to a rock slide between Toll Road and Skalula Crescent, north of Yale, B.C. The highway was also closed east of Chilliwack due to a large mudslide through the Herrling Island area.

DriveBC says the Coquihalla will be closed between Exit 202 and Exit 217, with the next update on the highway to come on Monday.

They say drivers can take Highway 3 as an alternate route while Highway 5 remains closed.

Other highways throughout B.C., including the Trans Canada Highway and Highway 11, were also affected by debris flows and flooding on Sunday.

DriveBC says there is currently no access to the Sumas border crossing to the U.S., but officials are assessing the situation.

It says drivers can use the Aldergrove crossing until its regular closing at 8 p.m., or cross through the Peace Arch or Pacific Highway crossings which will remain open overnight.

Concerns for rising river levels

As the rainfall warning from Environment Canada continues throughout Sunday for most of the southern half of the province, officials with the B.C. Rain Forecast Centre say they are closely monitoring the river levels around areas of concern like Vancouver Island, the Fraser Valley and Hope.

On Sunday afternoon, the forests ministry issued a flood watch for the entire Fraser Valley region, including areas around Hope, B.C. There were also flood warnings issued for the areas around the Tulameen River west of Princeton, B.C., as well as the Coldwater River near Brookmere, B.C.

A flood watch means residents should be on alert for rising river levels, while a flood warning means river water has breached culverts and flooding will result.

"It's been a really wet year so far," said David Campbell, the head of the B.C. River Forecast Centre. "[This rainfall] is looking a little bit more significant and I think that snow pack is part of the reason for that."

According to meteorologists, this weekend's atmospheric rainfall is also expected to increase freezing levels on areas of higher elevation, which means rain is expected on mountain passes where snow has already fallen.

"In the mountains, temperatures are pushing five to seven degrees right now, so we're seeing some of that snow that's come down to melt and that just adds more water to the rivers and runoff," Campbell told CBC News.

He said they are keeping a very close watch around the Englishman River on Vancouver Island.

"We have issued a flood watch for there," he said. "We are continuing to monitor so we are providing updates on the forecast on our website."

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