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Rains to subside as B.C. assesses damage from floods, mudslides

City of Abbotsford issues evacuation order for Sumas Prairie region

A car drives on a flooded road in B.C., splashing muddy water around, with a farm and other small buildings in background.

A car drives on a flooded road in Abbotsford, B.C., on Monday. Schools in the district will be closed Tuesday as parts of the city remain under evacuation order.

Photo:  CBC / Ben Nelms

RCI

Torrential rain over the weekend and into Monday left towns flooded and highways closed in B.C., but rains are likely to subside on Tuesday.

An "atmospheric river" (new window) brought heavy downpours for most of southern B.C., leading to the evacuation of the entire town of Merritt (new window), as well as further evacuations in the Fraser Valley (new window)Interior (new window) and Vancouver Island.

An evacuation order was issued in Abbotsford on Tuesday morning (new window) for the entire portion of the Sumas Prairie to the Chilliwack border due to a landslide in the area.

Residents are asked to leave immediately and register at the reception centre at the Fraser Valley Trade and Exhibition Centre.

Map of flooded regions in B.C.

The B.C. River Forecast Centre classifies flood watch as being when river levels are rising and will approach, or may exceed, its banks and flood adjacent areas. A flood warning is when river levels have exceeded its banks, or will imminently. As of Tuesday morning, much of southern British Columbia is under one of two classifications.

Photo:  CBC News

A significant portion of the province is currently under either flood watch or flood warning.

Flood watch means water levels are rising and may exceed its banks and flood adjacent areas. A flood warning means that's already happened. 

Schools in the Fraser Valley municipalities of Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Hope and Mission are closed Tuesday. 

Highways across the south of the province were also closed due to mudslides and debris flows, with parts of the Coquihalla and Trans Canada highways washing away in surging rivers (new window). Hundreds of motorists were trapped on the roads, with many being rescued by helicopter (new window) on Monday. 

PHOTOS | Scenes of the flooding and mudslides in southern B.C. (new window)

Spencer Coyne, the mayor of Princeton, B.C., told CBC's Heather Hiscox on Tuesday that rivers are starting to go down.

The Similkameen River didn't hit the heights town officials had feared, Coyne said, which was a positive development for the small community where 295 homes have been evacuated and another 300 are on alert.

Most evacuees are with friends and family, said the mayor, noting that he believes about 30 people are at a local reception centre. But Coyne said the community is without natural gas and temperatures are expected to fall Tuesday, with flurries in the forecast.

We're going to try to move our evacuees to Kelowna today to try to keep them warm because our ... reception centre won't have heat.

Coyne said once day breaks on Tuesday, crews and volunteers will be back out with sandbags.

WATCH | Mayor Spencer Coyne describes the situation in Princeton:

Waking up on the road

Some travellers were forced to spend a second night in their vehicles on Monday due to road closures.

Andrew Clark, a musician from Ladysmith, had been in Kelowna for the weekend to play concerts, but on the way home Sunday was stuck near Hope with two colleagues.

He said they're part of a group forced to sleep in their vehicles and crowd into local restaurants and gas stations for food and services.

Everyone's been very good humoured, he said. "Everyone knows that we are in the same boat, so that's all quite good, but I think there's a sort of general air of disappointment that we can't find out more information about what's happening down the road.

People are a little bit worried about how many nights we might be staying here.

An airlift operation Monday rescued hundreds of people trapped by mudslides on Highway 7 near Agassiz. 

The Department of National Defence told CBC News that a total of 311 people, 26 dogs and one cat were airlifted from the highway.

Jeff Kuhn, the lead pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Hope, B.C., said about 250 people were staying at the church and that there are also people staying at a local high school or in their cars.

The community has pulled together, he said, noting that grocery stores and people in town have been sending food and water.

Kuhn said there's some hope that Highway 1 west will open later in the day, allowing some people trapped in Hope to start making their way home.

WATCH | Pastor Jeff Kuhn walks CBC News around Grace Baptist Church: 

There is no clear timeline for when the province's highway network will be functional again, or when evacuation orders will be lifted for those away from their homes.

A person is standing on the brink of a segment of the destroyed Coquihalla road.

A section of Highway 5 was washed away by the surging Coquihalla River near Hope, B.C., on Monday. Floods and mudslides continue to have a severe impact on highways throughout southern B.C.

Photo: Offerte par Jeremiah Steberl

However, Tuesday will see the end of the weather system bringing heavy rain to the province, according to Environment Canada meteorologist Kenneth Chan.

On Thursday, perhaps, we'll have another weather system coming, he said.

But this one should be much weaker and also just mostly to the Pacific Northwest, Washington state. So we won't be affected by that as much.

Snowfall warnings remained in place overnight (new window) for the Coquihalla Highway, with Environment Canada saying up to 20 centimetres of snow could fall between Hope and Merritt.

Wind speeds are still expected to be high throughout B.C. Gusts of up to 90 km/h were forecast in parts of the Fraser Valley on Monday.

On Monday afternoon, Public Safety Minister and acting Premier Mike Farnworth said conditions were in flux throughout the province.

I would like to thank everyone who is affected for your patience, strength and for doing everything you can to stay safe, he said at a media conference.

In a statement, the federal Ministry of Public Safety said officials from the Government Operations Centre (new window) are in close contact with B.C. emergency management staff and that Ottawa is prepared to assist if necessary and if the province makes a request.

Anyone placed under evacuation order should leave the area immediately.

To find an evacuation centre close to you, visit the Emergency Management B.C. (new window) website.

Evacuees are encouraged to register with Emergency Support Services (new window) online, whether or not they access services at an evacuation centre.

Road conditions can be checked at DriveBC (new window).

CBC News · With files from Bridgette Watson, Corey Correia and Jennifer Walter

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