BRITISH COLUMBIA

Vancouver Braces For King Tide With 30,000 Sandbags Along Waterfront

12/09/2014 08:58 EST | Updated 02/08/2015 05:59 EST
VANCOUVER - Residents in the British Columbia municipality of Delta breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday as their homes remained free of flooding, even as the public was warned to stay away from the shoreline.

A temporary berm constructed by crews to protect homes held up but high winds and heavy rain were expected for the southern coast of the province.

Crews continued sandbagging in Tsawwassen as Environment Canada forecast up to 25 millilitres of rain for the Vancouver area, except for the North Shore, where 50 millilitres was expected Wednesday.

A local state of emergency was declared Tuesday in part of Tsawwassen, where Delta mayor Lois Jackson said a section of seawall about 21 metres long had collapsed.

The corporation said Wednesday that localized flooding had occurred in the neighbouring community of Ladner, prompting crews to begin sandbagging by the Fraser River.

Stormy weather meant BC Ferries cancelled service from Comox to Powell River and Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo.

A blizzard warning was also issued for northern B.C. and the Yukon with the forecast calling for potentially damaging winds and blowing snow that could reduce visibility to near zero.

In Vancouver, city workers placed about 14,000 sandbags along a low-lying waterfront area in a bid to protect homes from an anticipated king tide and possible storm surge, which would have elevated water levels significantly.

However, Peter Judd, the city's general manager of engineering services, said flooding did not occur during the first of the three king tides forecast for the area this season — with the others expected on Dec. 26 and around Jan 10.

"I'm still concerned about the potential for flooding on Boxing Day so we're going to leave the sandbags there right through to the end of the season," he said.

High tides and a storm lashed the area near Locarno Beach last year, with water reaching the road in front of homes, Judd said.

"That was the situation we were concerned about for today."

Local resident Fabio Levy said he's glad to see sandbagging because homeowners can't get insurance for flooding. Still, he said he would prefer to see a more permanent solution to the threat.

He said he saw water flood the nearby park in 2012.

"It does scare everybody," he said. "I mean it is a concern, and the tide could happen in the middle of the night or in the middle of the day. We never know."

The storm and high tides also flooded streets in the Vancouver Island City of Courtenay on Tuesday, where the municipality declared a state of emergency.

By Wednesday night, though, it had placed more than 100 businesses and 100 homes on evacuation alert or order.

"Head's up to people that they may have to leave on short notice," said Mayor Larry Jangula.

Longtime Comox Valley resident Glen Sanford said many people had a tough time driving home because roads and bridges were closed.

"People are just having to ride this out and once it comes to an end, people are going to actually have to take some time to survey the damage that’s been done, and probably a lot more will sink in then," he said.

Sanford said he has never seen flooding this bad.

In Port Alberni, on central Vancouver Island, flooding forced the closure some roads and facilities.

A message recorded Wednesday on the answering machine of Port Alberni's Tseshaht First Nation announced its administrative building — which is built partially above the Somass River — was closed because of high water and the danger that trees and logs could lodge under the building.

A band spokesperson was not immediately available for comment, but Russell Dyson, chief administrative officer of the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, said the band has evacuated three or four homes along the river.

"Indirectly, we're providing assistance to the Tseshaht," he said.

Dyson said a diversion is also taking traffic around a flooded section of Highway 4, which connects the valley with the west coast communities of Tofino and Ucluelet.

(The Canadian Press, CKNW, News1130)

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