UPDATE: Highway 1 fully open between Abbotsford and Hope

Eastbound lanes on Highway 1 are open in the Bridal Falls area. Two lanes of traffic are now flowing in each direction of the highway

By Fraser Valley Current Contributor | December 3, 2021 |2:32 am

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Update: Tuesday, Dec. 7, 430pm

Highway 1 between Abbotsford and Hope is now fully open, the ministry of transportation announced Tuesday afternoon.

The eastbound lanes of Highway 1 are open in the Bridal Falls area, meaning two lanes of traffic are flowing in each direction.

The highway was reopened after clean up, repairs and engineering assessments were complete, the ministry said.

Highway 1 is not subject to the essential travel order, but the ministry asked that people avoid unnecessary travel through the Fraser Valley.


Update: Monday, Dec. 6, 2pm

The evacuation order for central Sumas Prairie has been lifted, Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said during the first update since Friday, noting the area remains on evacuation alert like the north area, where residents were allowed to return Friday.

Residents accessing the central area are advised to only use Cole Road, Braun said.

A potable drinking water supply station is available for residents at No. 2 Road and Boundary Road. The water station is open seven days between 8am and 4pm. Residents will need to bring their own water containers and amounts will be limited to “what you can carry.”

City officials are also asking residents to store waste collected during clean up on their property while they work to create a plan for its removal. Alternatively, waste can be taken to one of the places listed on the city’s Waste Wizard.

Braun also noted the cooler temperatures have worked in the city’s favour. During the weekend water levels dropped nearly six feet at Sumas Lake, including 20 inches in the last 24 hours.

For the past three days Barrowtown floodgates have remained open and have helped with drainage across the southern region of Sumas Prairie, land west of the Sumas dike, Braun said.

The mayor also extended the local state of emergency for another week.

Clayburn Road is now open and city officials are working to clean out sediment traps by the bridge to improve water flow in the area.

Braun hopes to provide an update about the evacuation orders that remain in effect for the Lake Bottom and South regions later this week. He noted many fields in Sumas Prairie still have four to five feet of standing water.

Watch today’s update here:


Update: Monday, Dec. 6, 12:10pm

Travel restrictions on Highway 7 may be eased this week. That’s the good news.

The bad news?

Don’t expect to be able to drive into the Interior for non-essential reasons by Christmas. That was the general message from Rob Fleming, the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, at a media briefing today. Fleming suggested work was progressing on re-opening Highway 1 and Highway 5, but that both corridors are unlikely to be ready until late January. Until that time arrives, Fleming said Highway 3 is a critical route and that the priority is on allowing commercial vehicles to use the route.

Asked if travel restrictions—which currently prohibit using the route for work or to see family—could be eased, Fleming cited the need to prioritize commercial vehicles and that other reasons for travel would have to wait.


Update: Monday, Dec. 6, 9:15am

Highway 11 in Abbotsford has re-opened to single-lane traffic. The stretch of highway just north of downtown has been closed for weeks, forcing long detours and significant traffic back-ups. For the latest on the highway situation there and around the region, check out this story.


Update: Sunday, Dec. 5, 1:30pm

Many more people impacted by the floods and landslides are now eligible for financial assistance. The province announced Sunday that financial help is now available for homeowners and tenants. It covers uninsured damage sustained up to Dec. 2 and appears to be available also for those who sustained damage to property but were not evacuated. Those with accepted claims can receive 80% of the amount of total eligible damage that exceeds $1,000, up to $300,000. Seasonal properties are not eligible. More information, including how to apply, is available here.

Over the weekend, evacuation orders have been lifted for a number of properties, including some near Bridal Falls and in the Chilliwack River Valley. But orders remain in place in several places, notably the Hatzic area and parts of Sumas Prairie.


Update: Friday, Dec. 3, 2pm

Fighting back tears, Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun lifted the evacuation order for the north area of Sumas Prairie.

The city has launched a return home plan that will allow evacuated residents to access their properties in a four phased approach. The three other three areas-South, Central and Lake Bottom-remain on evacuation order.  Updates will be made available on www.abbotsford.ca/returnhome, where residents can find a map of the different evacuation areas.

People returning home will see rapid risk assessment placards on their doors. Green means the building is safe to enter, yellow means access is restricted subject to various conditions, and red means do not enter the building. More details and further instructions are provided on each access card. Re-entry packages have been distributed to each home.

The City of Abbotsford emergency operations centre has launched a call centre to assist residents. Call 604-864-5688 for general inquiries and 604-504-4049 for building assessment inquiries.

Residents in north Sumas will not have access to water until Saturday, Dec. 4, at 8am. A potable water station will be set up at No. 2 Road and Boundary Road, and residents will need to bring their own water containers. Water amounts will be limited to “what you can carry” to ensure adequate supply for all residents.

The entire Sumas Prairie is on a “flush only” water advisory, as water main breaks could allow floodwater to enter the water system.

Braun asked everyone to exercise extreme caution when returning home.

Water levels have dropped 12 inches over the past 24 hours in Sumas Lake, Braun said.

The next briefing will take place on Monday.

Watch today’s update here:


Update: Friday, Dec. 3, 12pm

All open routes into and out of the Fraser Valley that are open are running well, Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said. Approximately 10,000 commercial vehicles have been able to use Highway 3, and more freight has been moving on CP’s line through the Fraser Canyon.

Fleming said the ministry was in the planning stage on when the other highways may reopen, and would have a better idea of when temporary access could be instituted and what the costs might be in the not too distant future. Fleming noted that the Coquihalla has about 130km of highway that is damaged.

Some forest service roads are currently being upgraded and repaired to potentially allow for temporary access.

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said she and the federal Minister of Agriculture Marie-Claude Bibeau held a roundtable with farmers, and they pledged to develop a recovery plan. Popham and Bibeau will be out in the Fraser Valley tomorrow to have more conversations with farmers.

She also noted that 98% of the turkey stock survived, as well as 97% of laying chickens, despite the high death toll reported yesterday. (Popham said 628,000 poultry birds died due to the floods in Sumas Prairie.) Poultry prices could still go up, but Popham said that would be largely connected to transportation costs. One poultry farm has finished clearing and sanitizing two of their poultry barns, and they are expecting new chicks to be delivered on Monday.

Dairy farmers also had some good news: 98% of cows survived the floods, largely due to the efforts of farmers. One farmer said that when water receded enough, the Abbotsford Rugby Association and local hockey teams came to help farmers clean their barns.

Snow is predicted over the weekend, but there are no flood watches in effect as the region moves into more seasonal temperatures. The cooler weather is likely to help flood recovery, as freezing temperatures in the Interior will help lower the Fraser River and reduce additional meltwater coming into other watersheds.

Public Safety Minister is in Princeton today, meeting with local officials about flooding in their area.


Update: Thursday, Dec. 2, 2:30pm

Highway 1 is now open between Abbotsford and Chilliwack.

Meanwhile, in a media briefing this afternoon, Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun reiterated the long recovery process across Abbotsford, noting that it will be weeks until some residents can return to their homes. While water levels in the Sumas Lake area have dropped another seven inches in the last day, Braun said there is still five to six feet of water across a lake that is more than four kilometres in diameter. All that water must be pumped out through the Barrowtown Pump Station.

Water is also receding in the western parts of Sumas Prairie, but that too will take time to exit via the Barrowtown floodgates, which were open as of Thursday afternoon. Read our story on the differences between the western and eastern parts of Sumas Prairie.

For residents who have sustained flood damage to cause, Braun urged them to call Samaritan’s Purse, a non-profit disaster relief organization that has come to Abbotsford and which has specialized equipment to aid in the recovery. Their phone number is 1-833-738-7743.


Update: Thursday, Dec. 2, 1:30pm

Highway 1 between Abbotsford and Hope will open “very shortly”, while the highway between Popkum and Hope is now open, Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said .

Traffic will be restricted for a 3km stretch near the Bridal Falls area, in that section all traffic is being directed to the two westbound lanes of the divided highway. Traffic will flow with one lane in each direction. The two eastbound lanes will be under going maintenance for the coming days.

Highway 3 remains open for commercial traffic. Highway 99 closed again between Pemberton and Lillooet due to a landslide overnight near Duffey Lake. An update on the status of the highway will be provided tomorrow.

The immense scale of the animal death toll on Sumas Prairie has also been revealed

Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham said about 628,000 poultry are reported dead, 420 dairy cattle, about 12,000 hogs, and 110 beehives were found submerged. There are still 819 farms under evacuation order in the Sumas Prairie. She also provided a count of the animals that have been lost due to the floods. About 628,000 poultry are reported dead, 420 dairy cattle, about 12,000 hogs, and 110 beehives were found submerged.

The ministry is still quantifying the loss of crops. For some blueberry producers, the waters reached depths of eight feet. There are 700 acres of blueberry in the Sumas Prairie.

Watch today’s provincial update here:

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Update: Thursday, Dec. 2, 11am

Highway 1 will open today between Abbotsford, Chilliwack, and Hope the province announced this morning.

Crews are working to disassemble the tiger dam on Highway 1, and the road is expected to open sometime this afternoon. The province did not give a specific opening time and instead directed people to DriveBC for updates.

Highway 1 between Popkum and Hope is also expected to open this afternoon, despite images from yesterday showing high water running over the westbound lanes near Herrling Island.

Although Highway 1 will not be under an official essential travel advisory, the province is still asking people to limit their travel to essential purposes while repairs and clean up continue.

The highway will have slower speed limits, as well as traffic pattern changes and potential delays. The province said it will continue to monitor the weather and the highway.


Update: Thursday, Dec. 2, 8:30am

The tiger dam blocking Highway 1 at the Sumas River could be starting to come down.

Although there has been no public announcement, highway cams show activity at the dam. One section of orange tubing appears gone. There’s no word yet on when the highway will re-open, and it remains closed between Abbotsford and Chilliwack, as well as Popkum and Hope. (Photos from Emil Anderson, the maintenance contractor for Highway 1, show high water across the westbound lanes at Herrling Island.)

Highway 7 is open as of this morning, but experienced landslides and accidents that closed the highway several times yesterday. Highway 99 is closed between Lillooet and Pemberton, with an update expected at noon today, while Highway 3 remains open for essential travel. Full details on all road closures are available via DriveBC.

There is no WestCoast Express service from Mission today due to a mudslide.

The rest of the week could see snow replace the valley’s torrential downpour, as the region gets a blast of artic air.

Both the Environment Canada and the Weather Network forecasts for Chilliwack and Abbotsford show temperatures hovering around freezing with the potential for snow in the next week. The amount of precipitation is expected to be between 1mm and 10mm each day, regardless of whether it comes down as rain or snow.

The forecast at the Nooksack is positive for the next few days at least, with the river sitting at 143.5 feet as of 6:15am this morning and expected to continue a slow and steady decline until at least Dec. 7.

Nooksack River gauge.

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UPDATE, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2pm

Mayor Henry Braun sounded an optimistic note today at a media briefing.

Braun noted the Nooksack River is not expected to rise above its banks again, and that the city hopes to begin lifting evacuation orders over the next few days if weather co-operates.

And while the re-opening of Highway 1 is up to the province, Braun said city staff have been discussing that eventuality with provincial officials.

Still, there is a long ways to go.

Water levels in the reborn Sumas Lake have dropped one inch in the last day. But Braun warned that it will take a long time until the water is gone from the area, the bottom of which sits at sea level. While some water might drain into the ground, much will have to be pumped out at Barrowtown Pump Station. And that will continue to be a long process influenced by both the scale of the flood, and any rain that may fall in the future.

“That water is going to be there for a number of weeks and we don’t really know what’s under there until the water recedes,” Braun said.

He noted that 540mm of rain fell in Abbotsford in November. That’s about one-third of what the city typically receives in an entire year.

“That’s just over two feet of water layered over our entire city,” he said.

Braun said water continues to move north into Canada from the United States, as well as into Sumas Prairie off of the adjacent mountains.

But, he said, water levels seem to be generally stabilizing and that “we expect to see water levels to continue to subside over the next couple of days.”

Rising tides have forced the closure of the Barrowtown floodgates this morning and will cause the level of the Sumas River to rise, but Braun said that they are expected to re-open this evening. (Read our story on how the Sumas River, the floodgates, and the two sections of Sumas Prairie operate here.)

“We do not anticipate these will cause any issues.”

You can watch here:

Update: Wednesday, Dec. 1, 12:30pm

Chilliwack residents are assessing the damage after reports of flooding across the city following heavy rains yesterday and last night.

Residents across town, but especially in the Bernard Avenue area, have been affected, with the city’s drainage and sewer system having struggled to keep up with consistent and record rainfall amounts.

The Chilliwack River has risen significantly today. As of noon, it was just shy of its peak during the first storm event. But the City of Chilliwack says its dikes are sufficient to handle all the water, even if it rises further.

“Even if the highest flow forecast were to occur, it would be within the capacity of our dike system,” the city said on Twitter.

Story continues below

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Update: Wednesday, Dec. 1, 11:30am

Highway 7 has reopened after earlier closures, and the Ministry of Transportation continues to monitor the impacts of weather on other roadway closures.

Earlier debris slide on Highway 7 near Seabird Island has been cleared and highway between Agassiz and Hope has reopened. Crash at Lake Errock has also been cleared.

Highway 1 between Abbotsford and Chilliwack remains closed. Tiger dams across the highway remain in place.

On the east side of Chilliwack, Highway 1 remains closed between Popkum and Hope, there is some flooding in the area. In the Fraser Canyon Highway 1 remains open between Hope and Boothroyd, but closed between Boothroyd and Spences Bridge.

Highway 11 in Abbotsford, south of Highway 1, is open, but closed on the north side due to significant damage from the first November storm.

Highway 99 remains closed, but is expected to reopen between Pemberton and Lillooet today. The ministry will provide an update on the status of the highway later this afternoon.

There is currently a lull in the third atmospheric river, but more precipitation is expected, Environment Canada meteorologist Armel Castellan said.

Up to 40mm is expected for Abbotsford and about 50mm between Chilliwack and Hope. Wind will also be a factor in some regions

“We’re also dealing with record breaking heat,” Castallen said.

An atmospheric river brings heat as well as moisture, he explained, and the weather system is bringing heat well above mountain top heights of 3,000 metres.

“Many [temperature] records are being broken today,” he said, noting snowmelt is contributing to the precipitation seen by the storm.

Flood warnings remain in place in the Fraser Valley for the Chilliwack, Sumas, and Coquihalla rivers. Although a more favourable forecast is expected heading into the weekend

Watch today’s provincial update here:


Update: Wednesday, Dec. 1, 8:30am

Highway 7 is closed in both directions this morning due to a multi-vehicle incident at Watkins Road in Lake Errock. DriveBC says there is no detour available at this time. Earlier this morning, a landslide on Highway 7 between the Haig commercial vehicle checkpoint and the Maria Slough Bridge forced the highway down to single lane alternating traffic in both directions before Seabird Island. 

There is also a travel advisory in effect on Highway 7 between Glasgow Avenue in Mission and Ross Road in Hope. The route is open for essential travel only.

Sandbags volunteers are also needed at Townsend Park in Chilliwack. Remember to dress for the weather.

Moderate to heavy rain is forecast for the Fraser Valley, but fortunately, south of the border, the Nooksack River forecast has improved from yesterday.

The Nooksack River gauge at North Cedarville, about 10km south of where the river tends to flood, indicates the river was at 144 feet at 730 am and on a slight downward trajectory. It is forecast to peak at 145 feet tomorrow, just below flood stage (146.5 feet).

Nooksack river gauge

 

Update: Tuesday, Nov. 30, 8:30pm

Early this afternoon, an evacuation order was sent out for a large mobile home park on the south end of Hatzic Island, in Hatzic Lake near Mission.

All of the Hatzic Valley, from Miracle Valley down to Dewdney, was put on evacuation alert on Sunday due to the risk of landslides or flooding.

“All slopes and streams are at risk and there is no way to predict where events will occur,” the evacuation alert read. Streams were at bank-full, Hatzic Lake was creeping past its shoreline, and hillslopes were saturated with water. Road access could be cut off by mudslides at any time.

During Tuesday’s press conference, Lum said the situation was changing minute to minute and that staff were evaluating a “number of different issues” in the Hatzic Valley. Mostly notably, access to parts of that region.

“An emergency might not be readily apparent with your eyes what you can see on the ground,” he said. “The situation is changing very quickly.”

The Dewdney Area Improvement District, which is responsible for maintaining the Fraser River dike between Mission and Dewdney, said the Hatzic pumps had been running over the weekend to keep water moving into the Fraser.

The pump station was upgraded in 2014, when three new pumps were installed to operate automatically when there is high water inside the dike. The existing 1948 stork pumps were not removed. All five of the pumps had been running over the weekend to lower the water levels. However, the district said Monday’s break from the rain likely wouldn’t be enough to bring down the water levels. Residents should be prepared for flooding that could match or exceed what the community saw during the first November storm.

In Abbotsford, more evacuation orders and alerts have been issued for Sumas Mountain. Evacuation alerts for 114 properties along the Coquihalla River in Hope have also been issued this evening.

 


Update, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 5pm

Wonder why the Barrowtown floodgates are so important? We just published this new explainer. Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said earlier today that the floodgates are open at Barrowtown.

In an email to reporters, provincial Public Safety Ministry Mike Farnworth says the district has the power to do whatever it wants to protect properties. But his statement, which you can read here, says that local governments should check with the province to see if they can receive money to pay for any emergency work.

“To be clear, the claim that local governments need to wait on the province to receive authorization to take public safety actions is incorrect,” Farnworth wrote.

Earlier today, the district issued a press release saying it requested help from the province to stop Othello Road from crumbling, four days before Sunday’s washout. According to FVRD Chair Jason Lum, the request was denied. 

“Emergency Management BC staff have reached out directly to the chair and and the FVRD to ensure they have the support they need,” Farnworth wrote in the email. “We are committed to getting local governments the tools needed to reduce flood risks and keep people safe.”

For our story on the FVRD’s call to the province for urgent help, click here.


updates continue below

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Update, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 3pm

Highway 11 might be closed in Abbotsford for some time. The highway was damaged more than two weeks ago, but the province says that continued flooding has made it impossible to fully determine the repairs that are needed. More geotechnical assessments are necessary but currently impossible because of the flooding situation, according to an email from a spokesperson with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. The email noted the highway is just one of many damaged by recent storms.

The closure of the stretch of highway means travellers between Abbotsford and Mission must detour through farm roads on Matsqui Prairie.

Highway 11 remains closed along Matsqui Prairie
Highway 11 remains closed along Matsqui Prairie. The province does not know yet when it might re-open. 📷 Abbotsford Police Department

Update: Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2pm

Earlier, the Fraser Valley Regional District issued a press release saying it requested help from the province to stop Othello Road from crumbling, four days before Sunday’s washout. Read that in our 12:30pm update below, or click here.

Among the Regional District’s 50-plus requests to EMBC was $30,000 in funding for the district’s volunteer fire departments. The firefighters had been working on the ground to assist evacuees and others for 10 days straight. The funds would have gone to compensate the volunteers for their time.

According to FVRD Chair Jason Lum, the request was denied. 

“To have a request for $30,000 to compensate those incredible volunteers for the round-the-clock work they are doing shows a complete lack of understanding for our situation and community,” he said. “It’s an insult to those  volunteers who are out risking their lives for their neighbour.”

The FVRD has fire departments in Boston Bar, Columbia Valley, the North Fraser region, Yale, Hemlock Valley, Popkum, and the Chilliwack River Valley. The Chilliwack River Valley department has been particularly busy helping neighbours sandbag their homes as the Chilliwack River rose dangerously high. The department also responded to 36 incidents during the first wave of the storm, including one water rescue where two residents and their pets needed to be evacuated from their home.

City of Abbotsford also held its daily media briefing at 2pm.

Mayor Henry Braun says water has been rising in the Castle Fun Park area and new evacuation orders have been issued. But he said that he is positive about the outlook. The Barrowtown floodgates remain open, and he said the Nooksack is not forecast to overflow its banks again. He also said water levels in the Sumas Lake area have dropped by six inches in the last day.

Localized flooding is occurring on Matsqui Prairie and several roads have been closed. Sandbags in Clayburn Village are keeping the surging creek there away from homes, he said.

You can watch here:

Update: Tuesday, Nov. 30, 1:30pm

The forecast for the Vedder River looks brighter. Water levels are expected to remain below the dike, according to the latest update shared by the City of Chilliwack.

However crews are still dealing with localized flooding and water levels in creeks remain high due to the ongoing rainfall. The high levels prevent storm water from draining out of urban storm water drainage systems.

“Even though water levels in major rivers may be dropping, the creeks need a few days of dry weather to allow water levels to decrease,” the city wrote. “Once the rain tapers off, water levels in drainage creeks should start to noticeably drop within a few days.”

Residents are reminded to limit excess water use for things such as laundry to prevent overloading the sanitary sewer system.

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Update: Tuesday, Nov. 30, 12:30pm

The Fraser Valley Regional District is calling for urgent federal and provincial help after what it says are delays in processing emergency requests resulted in at least two homes being destroyed by the Coquihalla River.

“We are issuing an urgent plea for immediate help to the Provincial and Federal governments,” FVRD Chair Jason Lum said in a press release to the media labelled “Urgent.”

“We have a number of pieces of critical infrastructure, including the Wilson Road Dike, that are on the brink of failure, and need help today – not tomorrow or in the coming days or weeks.”

The FVRD said it has to apply for funding and assistance on a case-by-case basis for things as small as excavators. “Quite frankly, the responses are coming too little too late,” Lum said.

The FVRD is the municipal body for rural areas outside of the District of Hope, the District of Kent, the Village of Harrison Hot Springs, the City of Chilliwack, and the City of Mission. These regions are, in general, sparsely populated, but also at significant risk of flooding and landslides.

The release said that the FVRD emergency operations centre had put in a number of requests to the government that had gone unanswered for days. That included a request for $1.5 million to shore up Othello Road near Hope, which was as risk of washing into the Coquihalla River. The request was put in on Nov. 24, nine days after one home had already been destroyed by the river. The FVRD received verbal approval to shore up Othello Road late Monday, but by then a portion of the road was gone, as were two more homes.

“As of today we have several homes still teetering on the edge of the washout, at risk of being swallowed by the Coquihalla River,” Lum said.

This morning, before the release was issued, The Current asked Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth about the FVRD’s concerns about delays on requests for permission for urgent repairs, and asked him to explain what the delays were. He said there was none.

“There is no request for permission for urgent repairs to prevent flooding,” he said. (See video below)


New evacuation order

Just before the press release was issued, an evacuation order has been sent out for 8400 Shook Rd., an island on the south end of Hatzic Lake near Mission. That property is the location of a large mobile home park.

The entire Hatzic Valley had been put on evacuation alert over the weekend, when heavy rainfall caused flooding and landslide concerns. Those approximately 1,600 properties are still on alert, as Hatzic Lake continues to rise and unstable slopes risk cutting off road access due to landslides.

Mission Raceway Park has opened its track for residents on Shook Road who need space to store equipment or RVs.

The Dewdney Area Improvement District, which is responsible for maintaining the Fraser River dike between Mission and Dewdney, said the Hatzic pumps had been running over the weekend to keep water moving into the Fraser.

The pump station was upgraded in 2014, when three new pumps were installed to operate automatically when there is high water inside the dike. The existing 1948 stork pumps were not removed. All five of the pumps had been running over the weekend to lower the water levels. However, the district said Monday’s break from the rain likely wouldn’t be enough to bring down the water levels. Residents should be prepared for flooding that could match or exceed what the community saw during the first November storm.

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Update: Tuesday, Nov. 30, 11:30am

Following the latest weather event highways are still operating well, but Highway 99 between Pemberton and Lillooet will close today at 4pm, Minister of Transportation Rob Fleming said.

Highway 1 remains closed between Chilliwack and Abbotsford and east of Popkum between Bridal Falls and Flood Road.

Highway 1 will be re-opened when its safe, Fleming said.

The Current asked Fleming when Highway 1 repairs at Jackass Mtn. between Boothroyd and Lytton will be complete. He said it’s an area where CN Rail is actively working alongside the ministry, but couldn’t provide a timeline on reopening.

Rainfall is expected to continue overnight and into tomorrow evening. Overnight Hope has already received 60mm of rain, meteorologist Armel Castellan said.

“This event is very strong,” he said. “It’s the third consecutive storm in a week with very little respite in between these events.”

Freezing levels also continue to climb, up to 3,000 metres higher than the last two events, so snow melt is also playing a roll in the flooding, Castellan added.

However a break from the wet weather is expected on Thursday morning. But a smaller system is forecast for the south coast Friday morning.

“We will keep a continued close on on the barrage of storms,” Castellan said.

Watch the provincial update here:


Update: Tuesday, Nov. 30, 8:30am

Rain is coming down again across the Fraser Valley, and to the south, the Nooksack is forecast to start coming up again.

According to the Nooksack River gauge at North Cedarville, about 10km south of where the river tends to flood, the river was nearly 143 feet at 7am. It is forecast to start rising again this morning, reaching a peak of nearly 146 feet tomorrow morning.

Nooksack river gauge

This is a less optimistic forecast than yesterday morning, when the river was expected to stay below the action stage.

Water has been moving across the border overnight, largely into the Huntingdon area. City of Abbotsford will be holding a press conference at 2pm today to provide an update. As of yesterday afternoon, the dikes were holding and the Barrowtown flood gates were open.

Schools in Abbotsford remain on their segmented system, with Robert Bateman and W.J. Mouat meeting virtually. In the Fraser Cascade school district, all schools except Boston Bar Elementary-Secondary will be open for in-person learning. (Boston Bar will be continuing with remote classes.) The district has established a bussing system for staff who do not live in the communities they teach in to keep traffic on Highway 7 to a minimum.

As of this morning, Highway 7 between Hope and Mission is open for essential travel only. Highway 3 from Hope to Princeton is open and Highway 1 between Hope and Boston Bar are open with travel advisories. The Coquihalla Highway remains closed, as is Highway 1 between Abbotsford and Chilliwack, and Highway 1 between Chilliwack and Hope.

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Update: Monday, Nov. 29, 2:10pm

No water from the Nooksack River has crossed over the eastern part of the border to Sumas Lake, Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said, and that’s good news for the flood-struck community. The water level in the lake has decreased two inches in the last day, Braun said.

However, there is still some new flooding thanks to the rainfall. Vye Road east of Sumas Way was closed again earlier this morning.

However, water is coming across the western part of the border, towards Huntingdon. There is about two feet of water at Boundary Road and Second Avenue. At 4am this morning, it was dry. This is the water from the Nooksack, and the evacuation order in that area remains in place. Braun said American officials expect flooding to continue for the next few days, thanks to water stored in fields upstream of the border.

The water didn’t come as quickly as it did the first time, and there is also less water than the first flood earlier this month. In addition, water on the Fraser had fallen, which allowed the city to open the Barrowtown flood gates early this morning, allowing more water to leave the prairie.

The dike reinforcement will also be complete today.

“At this point we are holding our own,” Braun said. “I am confident we have done all we can do to keep our community safe.”

Although Braun was asked about the tiger dam that was built over Highway 1, he said it is in the hands of the Ministry of Transportation.

Abbotsford has extended its state of emergency for another week as another atmospheric river is on the way. That weather system is expected to drop between  60 to 90mm in Hope and 40 to 70mm in Abbotsford.

“I remain hopeful that we will make it through the final weather event forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday this week with only minimal impacts,” he said.

Braun noted that once the floods start to recede, the city will need to focus on rebuilding the dikes and improving the Barrowtown Pump Station.

“As we have seen, Abbotsford has critical infrastructure that, if it fails, has a significant impact on the economic viability of our region and the province,” Braun said. The federal and provincial governments’ “support for these vital upgrades will make the difference between us potentially dealing with another mass flooding event in the future that impacts our farmers and shuts down our key transportation corridors.”

The press conference is now over. You can watch it here.


Update: Monday, Nov. 29, 1:30pm

Environment Canada says the public can expect a 24 hour break in rainfall as it continues to track the third of three storms forecasted for the Fraser Valley.

During the second storm on the weekend Abbotsford saw 104mm of rainfall, Agassiz 100mm and Hope 127mm. And the latest storm is also expected to “deliver a relatively strong punch, similar to what we saw this weekend,” meteorologist Armel Castellan said.

About 50 to 100mm is expected on the south coast, for the Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast, Howe Sound and the Fraser Valley. Hope can expect between 60 to 90mm and Abbotsford 40 to 70mm.

Also, snow that remains and on the brink of melting could add to the total perception, Castellan said.

”It’s not just a rain event, it’s not just a snow-melting event, it’s also a successive storm event… it will be problematic because they are coming so close, back-to-back with the runoff, saturated soil,” Castellan explained.

Meanwhile, delays in getting the Trans Mountain pipeline back up and running due to inclement weather has forced the province to extend the temporary order to limit fuel for non-essential vehicles.

The order, which limits drivers to 30 litres of gas per visit, has been extended another two weeks, until Dec. 14. It applies to the following regions: the Lower Mainland to Hope region, Sea-to-Sky region, Sunshine Coast, the Gulf Islands, and Vancouver Island.

A supply of fuel is still arriving to British Columbia by barge and rail, Public Safety Ministry Mike Farnworth assured.

Before providing his update on the highway network Minister Rob Fleming thanked the crews who worked overnight to protect Highway 1 through the Fraser Valley, assembling tiger dams.

“It was a real race against time,” he said.

All current travel restrictions on highways 3, 7 and 99 remain in place.

Highway 3 between Hope and Princeton has reopened, as well as Highway 99 between Pemberton and Lillooet. Highway 1 east of Chilliwack, between Popkum and Hope, remains closed.

The province has also extended the state of emergency until Dec. 14.

You can watch the entirety of today’s provincial update on the flooding here:


Update: Monday, Nov. 29, 12:30pm

Nooksack River flood waters are slowly inching towards Canada, as a series of highway camera images in Sumas show.

Nooksack flood waters moving towards Abbotsford. 📸 Highway Camera/Tyler Olsen

The images show water moving its way towards the Sumas border crossing over the course of four hours. Another highway camera at the border shows water collecting at the crossing.

Videos from elsewhere in Abbotsford show water flowing over the border already.

Weather forecasts show another atmospheric river heading towards the coast today. This will be the third river to hit the region in just under a week and is expected to bring 50mm to 100mm of rain to the Fraser Valley Tuesday and Wednesday.

An atmospheric river (top left) makes its way towards BC’s coast today (Monday). 📸 Space Science & Engineering Center

Update: Monday, Nov. 29, 11:20am

Abbotsford was able to reopen the Barrowtown Pump Station flood gates at 1:35am this morning, the City of Chilliwack has said.

According to the city, the Barrowtown Pump Station was able to make it through the night, as water in the Sumas River stayed around 4.85m—about 2m below the top of the dike. The Fraser River level had also dropped, which allowed the flood gates to open and more water from Sumas River to enter the Fraser.

In Chilliwack itself, the city has had few impacts from the weekend storm. Some localized mudslides did occur overnight, which crews are now dealing with. Although ditches were full of rainwater, river levels did not come close to overtopping the dikes. As a precautionary measure, all trails in Chilliwack are closed until staff are able to inspect conditions after the next storm forecast for tomorrow and Wednesday.

Chilliwack residents are being asked to limit their water use for things like laundry until at least Thursday of this week, to let the sewer system catch up after the flood. Harrison residents are asked to do the same.

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Update: Monday, Nov. 29, 9:45am

The City of Abbotsford has 3,500 filled sandbags ready for residents at the Riverside Training Centre located at 1544 Riverside Rd.

There are still sandbags available at Albert Dyck Park, but they need to be filled first.


Update: Monday, Nov. 29, 9:15am

Water is now making its way towards Canada, as Sumas has sounded its flood siren.

The city said it would sound the siren when flood waters reached the Cherry Street bridge, around one kilometre away from the border. It now says water is starting to spread out and move through the city, although the flow is continuing to slow.

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Update: Monday, Nov. 29, 8:20am

At 5am this morning, the City of Sumas sent out a message preparing its residents for the arrival of floodwaters from the Nooksack, which had not yet arrived in the city.

The post noted that the water was continuing to work its way north, but it had not gone over  Halverstick Road yet, about two kilometres from the border. The city said it would sound the flood siren when water begins going around the bridge on Cherry Street, which is around one kilometre away from the border. The siren will be audible from Huntingdon in Abbotsford, which is already on evacuation order and has been since Saturday night. 

Meanwhile, back at the Nooksack River, flooding forecasts for the next atmospheric river are more hopeful. The forecast shows the river reaching a peak of 144.7 feet on Wednesday morning—just under the “action” threshold. This is better than earlier forecasts, which suggested that more minor flooding could be possible.

Nooksack River flood gauge

The next atmospheric river is set to arrive Tuesday and Wednesday, and while weather forecasts predict the rain will be steady, it won’t be as heavy as it was on Sunday.

The province will be holding a press conference today at 1:30pm to discuss its flood response and share more details about the fuel situation in British Columbia. The City of Abbotsford will be holding a press conference at 2pm today.

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Update: Sunday, Nov. 28, 10pm

The Fraser Valley Regional District has issued an evacuation alert for around 1,600 properties in the Hatzic area due to risks of flooding and landslides.

The FVRD said streams are a bank-full or overflowing, and the slopes are already saturated with water. Road access could be cut off by flooding or minor landslides.

The alert has been issued for all of Hatzic Valley, from Miracle Valley to Dewdney, because there is no way to know where issues could occur.

Other evacuation alerts and orders are listed on the FVRD’s website.

Everson:

Everson’s mayor says that town may be finished the worst of the flooding. However, much of the water that has already escaped the river will be on its way to Abbotsford. Eyes will also begin turning toward Tuesday, when another atmospheric river is expected to arrive, and the Nooksack is forecast to rise again.

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Update: Sunday, Nov. 28, 8pm

The number of evacuated properties across the Fraser Valley is growing, as the City of Abbotsford issued another evacuation order Sunday night. This evacuation order is not related to flooding on Sumas Prairie: it is for a number of homes on Whatcom Road due to a mudslide.

The Huntingdon area was evacuated Saturday night, and other areas in the Fraser Valley Regional District were also evacuated due to flooding and mudslide risks. You can find all Abbotsford evacuations on the city’s website, and all FVRD evacuations on their site.

There are no new evacuation orders for Chilliwack, Kent, or Mission.

The Ministry of Transportation continues to work on a dam being built on Highway 1 through Abbotsford. Police told the Abbotsford News the dam is a long water-filled dam sometimes called a “Tiger Dam.” Such dams are often used as emergency flood prevention devices. You can see how a tiger dam works in this video.


Update: Sunday, Nov. 28, 7:30pm

The University of the Fraser Valley students will not be coming to in-person classes until at least next Sunday.

The university announced all classes would be remote for the week of Nov. 29 due to rising flood waters and the closure of Highway 1. UFV had taken a business-as-usual approach during the first atmospheric river to hit the Fraser Valley, which resulted in wide-spread flooding and road closures across the region.

Public schools in the Fraser Cascade school district will also be closed on Monday, Nov. 29. This is the only school district to announced it will be closed on Monday; Chilliwack school district has said it will be open on Monday.

Abbotsford will be once again running on a split system, with Robert Bateman Secondary & WJ Mouat Secondary open for virtual learning only, and all other schools open for in-person learning for the week. The district says there are special plans for Barrowtown and Upper Sumas schools. Families of these two school sites will hear from the school principal with specific details.

Currently, Abbotsford is building a dam across the highway to prevent rising water in the Sumas River from crossing the bridge into Sumas Lake.

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Update: Sunday, Nov. 28, 6:30pm

A small dam appears to being been built on Highway 1, following its closure at 5pm. The Abbotsford Police Department noted that the highway is closed to absolutely all traffic including emergency vehicles. A highway camera shows activity on the short bridge over the Sumas River.

Such a dam would be aimed at preventing the movement of rising waters from the Sumas River, across the bridge, and into the Sumas Lake bed area. The Sumas River’s banks are elevated, but without the dam, waters could move from the western prairie to the eastern/Sumas Lake section of prairie, without going over a dike.

A dam blocks water flow over the Sumas River and into the reborne Sumas Lake area.

Meanwhile, this YouTube drone video shows the Nooksack crossing Main Street in Everson and heading north.

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Update: Sunday, Nov. 28, 5pm

The District of Hope has issued an evacuation order for properties on along Fish Camp Road, Othello Road and Tunnels Road due to heavy rainfall. A portion of the area had previously been on evacuation alert.

The district also declared a state of emergency to help facilitate any additional emergency evacuation orders and alerts that are needed during the storm. It is among the last communities in the Fraser Valley to declare a state of emergency.

Evacuees are asked to either register online with the province’s ess program, or to drive to the Abbotsford Tradex and register in person. Highway 1 from Hope to Popkum has been closed most of the weekend, and Highway 1 between Chilliwack and Abbotsford is now closed with no time of reopening. Highway 7 is still open for essential travel only.

A number of evacuation orders are also in place for properties in the Fraser Valley Regional District in the same area. You can see the FVRD’s list of alerts and orders here. You can also find a map of emergency alerts in the FVRD here.

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Update: Sunday, Nov. 28, 4:40pm

Highway 1 between Abbotsford and Chilliwack will be closed as early as 5pm today due to rising flood waters. There will be no estimated time of reopening.

Officials were warning people to avoid travel on the highway this afternoon, as water from the Nooksack River was set to begin moving north across the border. The river didn’t flood until Sunday afternoon, but the water will be moving towards Sumas faster than usual. Residents in Huntingdon were told to evacuate last night in advance of the anticipated flooding.

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Sunday, Nov. 28, 3:30pm

The City of Sumas has sounded their flood siren, which is audible on the Canadian side of the border.

Water from the Nooksack River has come over the banks in Everson. The water is moving towards Sumas quicker than normal, Everson Mayor John Perry said. It would typically take about 15 hours to reach Abbotsford, but with field already full, it might now take as little as three hours.


Sunday, Nov. 28, 2:30pm

If you need to get between Chilliwack and Abbotsford to get home: leave now. That’s the advice from the City of Chilliwack, with officials saying waters are reaching highway level and the route may be closed soon.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun predicts flood waters from the Nooksack will begin arriving in Canada within four to five hours. The Barrowtown Pump Station flood gates, which allow water out of Sumas Prairie into the Fraser River via the Vedder Canal, have also just been closed. That’s because heavy rains in the Chilliwack River have dramatically increased the level of the Vedder Canal. The floodgates won’t re-open until the water from the Fraser/Vedder Canal drops one foot below that of the Sumas River.

If the floodgates stay closed for an extended period, things could get very bad, Braun worries.

When we closed the floodgates in the first event, I think they were closed for 4 or 5 days,” he said. “That’s what’s causing me a lot of concern. We can only take that water from the Nooksack for so long, and then our dikes will be overtopping too. That would be my doomsday scenario.”


Sunday, Nov. 28, 2pm

Everson Mayor John Perry reported that water is now breaching Emerson Road in that city. The road is the last barrier between that community and areas further north, including Abbotsford.

In his press conference at 2pm, Mayor Henry Braun noted that once water crosses Emerson Road in Everson, the water will begin flowing to Abbotsford and there’s little way to stop it. He suggested that water will also arrive faster than in the previous event because of the saturation level of fields. The water is expected to continue to rise in Everson until late this evening.

Sandbagging work in Huntingdon has occurred along a 1.5km stretch to try to keep the water from the residential area. Braun noted that the bags are intended to route the water toward the Sumas River and into neighbouring fields. It’s impossible, he noted, to stop the water coming north, given gravity. A dike along the border would need to be 18 feet high, he noted.

“Based on all previous projections, that water is coming our way in the not-too-distant future,” Braun said.

Braun said he was confident that as much as possible has been done to prepare. He said all temporary dike repairs have been completed, a critical portion of dike has been raised, and other important work has been done. But he noted that there is still much uncertainty, and the situation can change quickly, pointing to the weather, and the inability to fully determine if dikes both on Sumas Prairie and along the Nooksack have sustained damage.

Tomorrow morning, we will publish another in-depth article on the source of the Nooksack’s raging flood waters: Mt. Baker. Subscribe below to get that in your inbox first thing in the morning

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Sunday, Nov. 28, 12pm

There are reports of widespread localized flooding across Abbotsford, including in areas beyond the heaviest hit areas on Sumas Prairie and Clayburn Village. Police are pleading people to be careful on roads, many of which are blocked by large volumes of water.

After pausing this morning, the Nooksack River rose by a foot between 9am and noon. It continues to go up, and is now nearing the base of the bridge at Everson, a new video shows.

About 120mm of rain has fallen on Mt. Baker Ski Area in the last 24 hours, with some of the heaviest rain coming this morning. While it has tailed off a bit, the snow pack is also starting to melt at a quicker pace.

Sunday, Nov. 28, 12pm

The Abbotsford Police Department has shared this video from earlier this morning of water pouring north over Boundary Road, which separates the US and Canada.

We are refreshing this story regularly. Tyler is also tweeting the very latest here.

The City of Abbotsford will hold its scheduled press conference at 2pm. You can watch live here.

Sunday, Nov. 28, 10:30am

Creeks in Clayburn Village in Abbotsford began overflowing their banks again Sunday morning. After a desperate cry for volunteers, city crews have reportedly arrived on the scene and are dumping sand to try to contain the water, a reader writes. So far, that’s working.

Members of the military have been working in the area in recent days, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau toured the area just two days ago.

A highway camera show how the water in Sumas, Wash., has risen in the last day:

These images were taken 24 hours apart on a webcam just south of Sumas, Wash. 📷 WSDOT/Windy.com

Sunday, Nov. 28, 10am

We have new updates from the Mayor of Everson and the City of Sumas.

Everson Mayor John Perry wrote at 9:20am that there had been little change in river flows, but that river levels are rising in the South Fork of the Nooksack. That water will make its way downstream, and Perry says river levels will rise in Everson during the afternoon.

“Surrounding farmland is slowly filling up with rain water and creeks and streams that have overrun their banks,” he wrote. “Overall though, we are looking better than expected and we are hoping this trend continues.” Perry is posting regular updates on his Facebook page here.

The City of Sumas reported that while they are also optimistic, they still believe the river will “go over early this afternoon sometime,” and that there will be flooding in Sumas by the evening. You can monitor their Facebook page here.

Sunday, Nov. 28, 8am

Huntingdon, the densely populated residential neighborhood in Abbotsford adjacent for the US border was evacuated overnight. Details are here. We will be regularly updating this story. Tyler will also be tweeting breaking news and other items of interest he finds here.

November 28 evacuation order
An evacuation order for Huntingdon neighbourhood was put in place early Sunday morning.

The new forecast for the river predicts a lower crest today, one not reaching ‘moderate’ flood levels. But it’s again unclear as to what such a flood looks like, given the saturated fields and potential damage to the Nooksack’s levee system in the Everson area.

Everson’s mayor said on Facebook that the river is about a foot lower than had been predicted, but that standing water has forced the closure of the first road there. The gauge on the Nooksack suggests the river hasn’t risen much over the last couple hours. But rain continues to fall, particularly on Mt. Baker, the primary source of the vast majority of the river’s water. The mountain has seen about 120mm of rain over the last day. That rain is combining with warm weather to melt snow that had previously fallen.

Sunday, Nov. 28, 12:30am

As Abbotsford braces for what is to come. We’ll leave with these words, posted on a public Facebook page, from a resident just over the border, where people there have been dealing with the same situation.

Image

Saturday, Nov. 27, 7:30pm

Abbotsford and US border towns are on edge this evening as heavy rains and warmer temperatures are set to again push the Nooksack higher. The region is expecting a deluge of rain, with some of the heaviest expected on the slopes of Mt. Baker, from which most of the Nooksack River’s water comes. (See below)

The warming temperatures mean is bad news, both because more rain will directly enter the Nooksack’s tributaries, and because snow that had fallen during last week’s storms will melt. That’s expected to cause the Nooksack’s waters to swell. Tonight, however, is mostly about preparing. The river isn’t expected to peak until Sunday afternoon.  While the peak is expected to be in what is usually considered the territory of a ‘moderate’ flood, officials say damage to the Nooksack’s levees, and new sedimentation, means it is hard to say when and how the river might flood. (See story below)

Watershed and Hillslope Modeling Nooksack River basin, Whatcom County, WA Graduate students and I have been modeling the impact landscape changes and climate change on streamflow and mass wasting in watersheds in the Pacific Northwest using ...
The bulk of the Nooksack River’s water comes from the western, northern, and southern slopes of Mt. Baker. 📷 Western Washington University

Tyler is live-tweeting what he learns here. Click that tweet and scroll to find the latest as it comes in.

Updated, Saturday, Nov. 27, 3pm

Abbotsford Police are urging people not to go to Huntingdon Park to pick up sandbags. Go to Albert Dyck Park instead.

The congestion is preventing material delivery and the remaining sandbags are required at that location,” they said in a release. “Sandbags are currently available for pick up at Albert Dyck Park.”

Updated, Saturday, Nov. 27, 3pm

With American officials uncertain about the Nooksack River’s behaviour over the coming 24 hours, Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said crews and the military are working to prepare for more potential water coming across the border.

And he urged residents who have been able to return to their homes to be ready to leave on a moment’s notice. Sandbagging is taking place both around Huntingdon, adjacent to the Sumas border crossing, and near the small community of Arnold.

The Nooksack is forecast to reach heights that would normally cause ‘moderate’ flooding. Such a flood does not usually significantly impact Abbotsford, but these are unusual times. Last week’s huge flood has damaged the Nooksack’s banks and deposited sediment in new places. So it’s unclear just how high the Nooksack will have to rise before sending more torrents of water toward Canada. The saturated ground and already-soaked fields in between the river and Abbotsford adds to the unpredictability.

Braun said he is confident the city, with the help of the military, has done as much possible over the last week to prepare. But he said water is likely to come Abbotsford’s way.

“Floodwaters from the Nooksack River are anticipated to cross into the west side of Sumas Prairie in the Huntingdon area,” he said. Military crews have been sandbagging along a military line to protect the community, which is the densest on Sumas Prairie but fortunately slightly higher than neighbouring areas. 

For residents sandbags are available at Huntingdon Park. For other Abbotsford residents, there are sandbags at Albert Dyck Park. We have a full list and a map of where to get sandbags in this story.

There was a bit of good news: water levels in the reborn Sumas Lake declined nine inches yesterday before today’s rain began.

But Braun said current evacuation orders are not anticipated to be lifted until next week. He also said help from other levels of government will be required to continue keeping Barrowtown Pump Station operating. If the pump station fails, he says, “we expect there will be eight feet or more of water over Highway 1 for months. ”

Braun said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had promised all the support the city needs to protect its residents and its infrastructure.

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Updated, Saturday, Nov. 27, 12pm

Three key local highways will close in two hours. Highway 3 between Hope and Princeton, Highway 1 in the Fraser Canyon, and Highway 1 between Popkum and Hope will all close at 2pm. You can find more information from the provincial government here.

The City of Abbotsford will hold an update at 2pm. We will post video of that here as well.

The Nooksack forecast has also been updated. It’s slightly worse than that from this morning.

Tyler also wrote on Twitter about one unlikely, but potential, danger that the Nooksack poses. It’s worth being aware of, despite the unlikelihood.

Updated, Saturday, Nov. 27, 9am

The Nooksack flood forecast changed little overnight. The rain is supposed to be particularly heavy this evening. You can find the Weather Network’s hourly forecast here.

 

 

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