New Brunswick Tribune

Thursday, November 30, 2023

As further storms approach, Environment Canada issues a ‘red alert’ for British Columbia

Key takeaways:

  • British Columbia has experienced “extraordinary” quantities of rain this fall, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada.
  • The weather service did not issue a warning at the time, which Castellan attributed to “the challenges of forecasting.”

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, British Columbia has received “exceptional” amounts of rain this fall, soaking the ground and increasing the likelihood of disasters like the one that devastated the province earlier this month.

The situation has forced the weather service to declare an unusual “red alert” for portions of the province already ravaged by the previous storm.

A warning readiness meteorologist, Armel Castellan, told reporters in a technical briefing Friday that certain meteorological stations, including Victoria, Vancouver, and Abbotsford, had their wettest-ever fall seasons.

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Drought and wildfires this summer and changes on the ground caused by earlier wildfire seasons have aggravated circumstances, he says.

“The terrain is fully flooded,” remarked Castellan. “Any additional moisture drains much more easily and quickly.”

More moisture might come from melting snow as two more atmospheric rivers bring warm tropical air to the province during the next few days.

The B.C. River Forecast Centre has issued flood watches and high streamflow advisories along the province’s coast due to snowmelt and the prospect of considerable rain this weekend and midweek next week.

“The worst-case scenario remains unlikely – for Tuesday and Wednesday to be as severe as what we witnessed in the middle of the month – but it exists,” Castellan said. “We hope that everyone is prepared, feeling prepared, and doing everything they can to prepare for this exceptional combination of storms that is affecting the South Coast.”

All of this adds up to a possibly dangerous situation in British Columbia, where another atmospheric river dumped 40 to 60 millimeters of rain on Thursday and is predicted to dump two more by next Wednesday.

“The red level (alarm) is something new that we haven’t done before,” Castellan explained. “This would be something that we might not see in a particular career 10, 20 years ago when I began this career.”

Environment Canada issues red alert for B.C. as more storms approach

In retrospect, he claimed he would have issued a red alert ahead of the heat dome, which killed over 600 people throughout British Columbia this summer.

The weather service did not issue a warning at the time, which Castellan attributed to “the challenges of forecasting.”

What distinguishes the current situation is the clear vulnerability of regions of the province that are still recuperating from the previous storm, such as Abbotsford, Merritt, and the routes connecting the Lower Mainland to the Interior.

“This notice is mainly due to the vulnerabilities that are on the ground, particularly in the Fraser Valley, where we still have the Sumas Prairie healing from the prior catastrophe,” Castellan explained.

The Sumas Prairie is a 90-square-kilometer low-lying area in Abbotsford’s southeast corner. Much of the prairie is the prior Sumas Lake, refilled with floodwater from the adjacent Sumas River and the Nooksack River in the United States during the most recent storm.

On Thursday, the city’s mayor said he expects the remaining floodwater to be pumped out of the former lake to take weeks.

Over the upcoming weekend, flood warnings have been issued for northeastern Washington State, including the Nooksack River.

Source: CTV News

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