Volunteers in Abbotsford help with cleanup as receding floodwaters leave behind trail of garbage, debris

·3 min read
A railway is pictured with debris on it after floodwaters receded in Abbotsford, B.C. on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
A railway is pictured with debris on it after floodwaters receded in Abbotsford, B.C. on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

In the days following the catastrophic flooding in the southern part of B.C., including Abbotsford, receding water left behind a trail of garbage and debris in its path.

Now, community volunteers are gathering to help with the cleanup.

"We weren't affected for our house, but we want to help the community as much as we can," said Melissa Lippmann, who brought her husband and daughter to help pick up trash and litter at a blueberry farm in the area.

"It was scary to see everything, how we could have been impacted," she said, adding they were just two blocks away from flood waters potentially affecting their home.

"Now seeing the aftermath of it, water is strong and now we know to be safe from it and stay away."

Carly Thomas/CBC
Carly Thomas/CBC

Nearly 1,000 properties in the Sumas Prairie area were under an evacuation order on Tuesday when a severe weekend rainstorm pushed up water levels in the area, causing disastrous flooding and devastating damage.

More than 180 rescues were completed Tuesday and early Wednesday as trapped residents were stranded on their flooded properties.

Residents in areas of both Abbotsford and Chilliwack were endangered by what officials called the "imminent failing" of the Barrowtown Pump Station, which, as of Tuesday night, was the only thing keeping excess water flow from the Fraser River from entering the flooded area.

The station was also in danger of being inundated with floodwaters flowing north from the Nooksack River in Washington state.

However, city staff and volunteers in Chilliwack and Abbotsford worked through the night to build a 25-metre dam around the station to hold back the rising water.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Floodwaters have started to recede but more rain is expected in the upcoming forecast.

"I'm a little nervous. Especially about the Nooksack River, if that's going to breach and potentially affect us. I hope not, but we're going to be prepared for it," Lippmann said.

20 to 40 millimetres of rain expected in forecast

The province is urging people in B.C.'s North Coast to prepare for heavy rain, strong winds and freezing temperatures, as Environment Canada issues weather alerts for a number of regions.

The weather events are expected to start Saturday and last until Tuesday and cover Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert, Kitimat and the surrounding communities.

The system is slated to reach the south coast by Monday, and although it's expected to be in a weakened state, it will hit regions that are still vulnerable due to previous flooding.

"[Environment Canada] is looking at about 20 to 40 millimetres of rain," said Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth at a news conference on Saturday.

"Normally, that would not be an issue in terms of concern, but obviously, given the current saturation that we have seen in the ground ... we're watching very closely to make sure that everybody's aware, alerted and prepared."

The province is urging residents to prepare an emergency kit in their homes in case of power or water outages.

In the case of strong winds, officials are asking people to be careful of downed trees and power lines.

To protect your home from flooding, make sure to clear out gutters and check nearby storm drains for blockages, and stay a safe distance away from fast-moving water.

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