US-Canada border towns assess damage from devastating floods
Towns in the US state of Washington and Canada’s British Columbia are beginning to dry out following an intense rain storm that cut off key roads and forced hundreds of people to evacuate. Residents of one small US city along the border were assessing damage from flooding that hit an estimated three quarters of homes. Skies were sunny in the area around Sumas, Washington, where about 500 rescues and evacuations were reported.
“We’re looking at going door-to-door, as waters go down in different parts of the town,” said Sumas mayor Kevin Christensen. “Half is on dry ground, half has water.”
People walk through floodwaters in Sumas, Washington (Elaine Thompson/AP)
By Wednesday afternoon, only one river in western Washington had active flood warnings. The soaking fuelled by a so-called atmospheric river that dumped torrents rain on the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia from Saturday through to Monday reminded people of western Washington’s record, severe flooding in November 1990 when two people died and there were more than 2,000 evacuations. While the weather was improving, the situation remains dire in British Columbia, where the Canadian government sent in the military to help deal with floods and mudslides that destroyed parts of several major roads.
One death was reported and officials said on Wednesday that more deaths were expected. Immediately across the border from Sumas, police using helicopters and boats had evacuated about 180 residents of a flooded low-lying area of Abbotsford, British Columbia.
A police vehicle travels on the Trans-Canada Highway past flooded farms in Abbotsford, British Columbia (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
Those evacuated in Abbotsford joined thousands of others in the province who were forced from their homes by floods or landslides starting on Sunday night. On Facebook, the City of Sumas said that water levels were continuing to drop and it looked like the community would not be affected by additional potential flooding in Abbotsford.
It said crews were working hard to clear roads and return power to some parts of the town. To the south, a flood warning for Washington’s Skagit River was still in effect because it will take time for the floodwaters to drain, the National Weather Service said. Officials recommended that residents of several nearby islands evacuate.
Across the border, the body of a woman was recovered from a landslide near the small community of Lillooet, British Columbia. Royal Canadian Mounted Police said at least two other people were reported missing.
Five-year-old Ezra Hofman and his father clear mud from a volunteer fire station damaged by flooding in Sumas (Elaine Thompson/AP)
British Columbia premier John Horgan declared a state of emergency on Wednesday following the unprecedented flooding. In Washington’s Whatcom County, home to Sumas, the county sheriff’s office said on Facebook that authorities and search crews had located a body believed to be a 59-year-old man who had last been seen clinging to a tree after his truck was swept into a flooded field in the town of Everson.
Officials in the city of Bellingham said only a few roads there remained closed on Wednesday because of flooding and officials were also assessing damage.
More rain fell in Bellingham from Saturday through Monday — about 5.57 inches — than normally falls there during all of November, according to National Weather Service data.
The normal monthly rain total is 5.2 inches for November, the weather agency said.
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