Much of Large parts of the town of Princeton, B.C., was under water on Monday. Photo by Misty Oceanna
16 Nov 2021

Extreme weather hit Western Canada for the second time this year

These past days, extreme weather once again  struck the province of British Columbia and brought flooding, mudslides and damaging winds. It was only about half a year ago when hundreds of residents in Western Canada were dying from heat stroke in extreme temperatures. 

 

Cover photo: (Above)  Large parts of the town of Princeton, B.C., was under water on Monday. Photo by Misty Oceanna

Extreme weather is starting to feel common place in British Columbia, a province normally known for mild winters and pleasurable summers.

However, 2021 has not been a normal year for the province: During four days at the end of June and beginning of July, a heat wave brought temperatures approaching 50 degrees Celsius to some areas of the province, and temperatures well above 40 C for greater Vancouver - extreme conditions which made headline news all over the world.

The official death toll from patients dying from heat stroke - or not getting medical help in time due to long waits for ambulances -  is now around 600. However, during the weeks following the heat wave, the numbers were at one point officially over 800 dead (which CTIF News has reported on previously) 

However, the autumn has not been much kinder towards the province, bringing several storms and heavy rainfall well above normal for several weeks on end.

Only a week ago, a local tornado was damaging properties in central Vancouver. In the third week of October, a storm brought such heavy waves at sea that a container ship lost much of its cargo in the water outside of Vancouver Island. The official number of lost containers are 40, including several containers containing hazardous materials.  However, recent statements in the media referring to sources within the Canadian Coast Guard claim the real number of  containers lost at sea are 106, leading to supply shortages in local stores. 

Other containers allegedly caught fire onboard the freight ship due to the heavy winds bashing the vessel around, causing major damage. 

This week, the province of British Columbia was once again hit heavily by major floods and landslides in a rainstorm that started on Sunday. Roads, bridges and homes are affected by the rising water levels from the heavy downpours and strong winds.

On Monday, hundreds of drivers throughout southern BC were stuck between mudslides covering the highways, and about 275 people were forced to spend the night in their cars. 300 people had to be rescued by helicopter, according to CBC News. 

Canadian Forces Cormorant helicopters started the first of many rescue flights in the morning on Monday. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said conditions were difficult.

On Tuesday, search missions were underway to find  people who were feared to have been trapped in debris from the mudslides. No fatalities were reported on Monday.

Near Agassiz, B.C. about 50 vehicles were trapped between two landslides. Photo by Julia Murray
Near Agassiz, B.C. about 50 vehicles were trapped between two landslides. Photo by Julia Murray, who was one of the drivers who had to spend the night in her car. 

In the town of Merritt, about 200 kilometers northeast of Vancouver, all residents have been urged to leave the city due to rising water levels destroying bridges in the area. Several other smaller smaller towns were dealing with flooding and partial evacuations during Monday. 

In central Vancouver, a major bridge had to be closed due to the risk of it getting rammed by a runaway barge carrying shipping containers. The enormous freight barge could be seen drifting around aimlessly on English Bay, near Sunset Beach in downtown Vancouver. 

The storm brought as much rain on Sunday as the area usually gets in a month. The situation was also made worse by strong winds. 

On Tuesday, many roads were still not usable and many residential areas throughout the Greater Vancouver Region were isolated while waiting for cleanup crews. 

Throughout the province, more than 100 000 homes were without power on Monday. 

"The weather conditions combined with the fact that it is impassable on many roads in the area make it incredibly challenging, says Kyle Donaldson, spokesperson for BC Hydro, a Canadian electricity company in the province of British Columbia.