Tseshaht First Nation declares state of emergency

Evacuations begin as Somass River upgraded to flood warning

Last week’s heavy rainfall in the Alberni Valley caused Tseshaht First Nation to declare a state of emergency this weekend due to flooding.

The BC River Forecast Centre issued a High Streamflow Advisory for Sproat River, Somass River and tributaries and areas around Port Alberni on Tuesday, Nov. 21.

By Saturday, Nov. 25, this had been upgraded to a Flood Watch, and by Sunday morning it had been upgraded to a Flood Warning.

Tseshaht First Nation declared a state of emergency on Saturday evening, as home evacuations and sandbagging began. 18 homes were advised of probable flooding, and another 80 homes on reserve were advised of potential long detours due to road closures.

Hugh Braker, the Tseshaht Emergency Preparedness chair, said last Tuesday that he expected to see an event similar to November 2016, when portions of Highway 4 were closed due to flooding.

“I anticipate we’re going to have that again,” said Braker. “We’re just going to have to wait and see.”

The Alberni Valley Regional Airport was also closed on Thursday, Nov. 23 due to flooding.

Doug Holmes, ACRD CAO, said heavy rainfall caused flooding at the intersection of one of the taxiways and the runway.

“There is a little bit of water flooding onto the taxiway and to some degree onto the runway—only about two to three centimetres on the runway,” Holmes said. “The low lying area is full of water and normally there would be a pipe that would empty that drainage and the pipe has lifted.”

City of Port Alberni utilities superintendent Brian Mousley said the city switched water sources from China Creek to the alternate supply at Bainbridge Lake, because of its higher turpidity.

“We’re extremely fortunate to have that alternative,” he said.

Although rivers were expected to peak on Monday, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) predicts another 40mm of rain on Tuesday.

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