Three weeks after southern B.C. was hit by the first in a series of atmospheric rivers, the province’s deputy premier says efforts are shifting from emergency response to recovery and debris management.
The update came after multiple storms brought record-breaking rainfall, catastrophic flooding and multiple landslides including one that was fatal.
Deputy Premier Mike Farnworth said Monday that he visited flood-damaged areas of Princeton and saw the impacts to various neighbourhoods.
“The scale of the flood damage is extraordinary,” he said.
“It’s difficult to see people’s homes damaged and to hear first-hand the experiences of this disaster. But what I was struck most by is the resilience of the community, their grit and determination to come together and to recover.”
Farnworth explained that changes are coming as the province moves from emergency response to recovery and debris management. For example, some members of the Canadian Armed Forces deployed to southern B.C. to help with the flood response are leaving.
About 126 troops will remain, Farnworth said.
“The forces have so far provided enormous help in communities when they needed it most and we would not have gotten through the onslaught of heavy rains without them,” he said.
As well, starting on Dec. 15, support to those impacted by the storms will come through the Red Cross with provincial funding, rather than from local governments. Farnworth assured the back-end transition “should be seamless,” at that support won’t actually change for those who need it.
“It will take time to fully recover from this flooding, but I want to reiterate that all levels of government are here to help,” he said.
MORE HIGHWAYS REOPEN
Farnworth and Transportation Minister Rob Fleming also announced more highways are opening in the region.
At the peak of the storms, there were no available routes between the Lower Mainland and the Interior. But over the past few weeks, crews have worked to repair and reopen roads.
In fact, as recently as Monday, Highway 11 connecting Abbotsford and Mission reopened with a single lane in each direction between Hazelwood Avenue and Clayburn Road. B.C.’s transportation ministry said only the southbound lanes were being used and the northbound lanes would remain closed until the highway can be fixed.
As well, travel restrictions limiting Highway 7 to essential trips will lift Monday afternoon. That road between Mission and Hope was set aside for emergency crews and transport trucks to help local supply chains.
Even so, restrictions remain in effect on a number of other routes, including Highway 99 and Highway 3. Fleming said there are no immediate plans to fully reopen either of those two major highways, describing Highway 3 as “crucial” to the province’s supply chain.
Farnworth said in the weeks ahead “there is much work that still needs to be done,” adding that “the province stands ready to help.”