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Concern rises for major floods on Fraser River, BC


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  • Location: Rossland BC Canada
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada

    Concern rises for major flooding on the Fraser River in British Columbia

    After a winter season with heavy snow in the alpine levels of all mountain ranges in BC and Washington state, and a rather cool first half of May, conditions were obviously prime for a major flood event on various rivers draining these mountains into the Pacific. The last major flood on the lower Fraser occurred in June 1948 when a similar snow pack melted rapidly in warm weather combined with heavy rains over the interior.

    This year, local and provincial levels of government have been working to shore up the existing flood-control dykes which protect some but not all districts that could be inundated by a 2-3 metre rise on the Fraser River, which flows out through a broad valley to the Pacific through heavily populated parts of B.C. around Vancouver. The areas most at risk of flooding are a considerable distance inland, 70-100 kms from the mouth of the river, in Abbostsford, Mission and Maple Ridge. Not all shoreline areas here can be protected, the dyke system is incomplete more due to the challenges of the terrain wherever tributaries enter the Fraser. This is where there is probably a moderate to high risk of severe flooding in about a week's time, as the current hot dry weather becomes stormy and rainy next week. There are predictions out from the flood control agency that river levels will be similar to the peak flood of 1948 in about a week to ten days.

    Further downstream, the dyke system is more complete along the shorelines, but large sections of Richmond and Delta BC, heavily populated southern suburbs of Vancouver, lie 1-2 feet below sea level and there have always been fears that a very high flood stage combined with high tides in the estuary could overtop the dykes here and lead to massive and fairly deep flooding. This possibility has been reduced by the buildup of even higher levees this spring.

    Will keep you posted on how things develop. Where I live, we are 120 metres above sea level, and the Fraser River is about a mile south of here down a steep hill, but in Burnaby where I live the shore slopes away from the river fast enough that I don't see any potential for flooding on this side (north). The river divides around a large island in the estuary, which is basically the island where Richmond is located, and this island is all very low and flat.

    In case you're wondering, downtown Vancouver is nowhere near the Fraser, it is on Burrard Inlet well to the north and so there is no danger of any flooding there.

    These serious floods are fairly uncommon events. There was a minor flood in 1972 and a lot of fears of one in 2000 but that spring's heavy snow melted in bits and pieces. Before the 1948 disaster (there were scenes like Holland in 1953 except that people had more time to evacuate), there was a similar big flood in 1894 but there was little in the flood plain to damage back then.

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    Posted
  • Location: Reading/New York/Chicago
  • Location: Reading/New York/Chicago

    I'm going to Vancouver to work for the first time next week; hopefully it won't be too bad!

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    Posted
  • Location: Gravesend, Kent 61m asl
  • Location: Gravesend, Kent 61m asl

    Roger, any information you do have on the flood situation in BC generally would be much appreciated. I work for a tour operator selling holidays to Canada and we have had calls from a couple of clients on holiday currently and they are looking for advice on whether they need to change any upcoming travel plans, particularly in Northern BC. Any information you get will be much appreciated.

    Thank you!

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    Posted
  • Location: Reading/New York/Chicago
  • Location: Reading/New York/Chicago

    It was heaving down with rain when I landed in Vancouver this morning. A pity as I hardly got to see any of the city on approach. Made a short hop on a small plane from Vancouver to Victoria and did see that the river looked pretty high and muddy; a sure sign of flooding further upstream.

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