Wednesday November 17, 2021 | VICTORIA, BC [Posted at 2 pm | Last update 5:50 pm]
by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends
[Update at 5:50 pm – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has asked Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair to convene the federal Incident Response Group (IRG) to discuss the floods, landslides, and extreme weather conditions caused by climate change that are affecting thousands of people in BC.]
BC is back into another State of Emergency as of noon today, in support of efforts and having necessary resources to restore communities, roadways, water systems, agriculture and livestock as impacted by the flooding and mudslides of this past weekend’s (November 14-15) extreme weather event in the BC Interior, said Premier John Horgan in a media session at 12:45 pm today.
The State of Emergency is initially in effect for 14 days and may be extended or rescinded as necessary. It applies to the whole province.
A State of Emergency ran for over 15 months last year into this year (mid-March 2020 to July 1, 2021) during the first phases of the COVID-19 pandemic health emergency.
A State of Emergency means that the government can use or appropriate any resources that they may need for dealing with the emergency. Deputy Minister Mike Farnworth (who is the Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General) said the State of Emergency “will help us with the challenges ahead”.
All British Columbians are asked to avoid non-essential travel at this time. “Do not travel for leisure purposes,” said Farnworth in today’s media session. “Our transportation infrastructure is crippled. We need to assure essential access,” he said.
“It’s challenging, but I know we’re up to the challenge,” said Farnworth, who was appointed as Deputy Minister on October 28 when Premier Horgan announced his stepping away from full duties while undergoing needed attention to his health.
Horgan remarked that the economy is strong in BC (including unemployment lower than pre-COVID levels), which will help the province as the impacts of this emergency are dealt with. He noted that flood insurance is available in BC.
Livestock and food supply:
Some livestock impacted by severe flooding on farms and ranches in the BC Interior due to the heavy rainfall in the November 14-15 storm will be accessed by veterinarians as soon as road access is available. But “animals won’t be in good shape” overall and some will need to be euthanized said Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Minister Lana Popham today.
She said that hundreds of farms are under water due to the recent storm and that thousands of animals have perished. Livestock that has survived are “in critical need for food”. Horses, cattle, poultry and other animals have been impacted. Feed mills are being contacted by BC Agriculture and more supplies will be delivered to farms as delivery routes are opened for safe travel.
Flooding has damaged the BC agriculture plant and animal health laboratory testing facility, but Alberta and Saskatchewan provincial counterparts have stepped up to offer help with testing, including milk supply testing.
Animal waste is in flood water.
The food supply chain is being managed, so there is no need to hoard food when grocery shopping, it was stated in various contexts by all of Premier, Deputy Premier, Transportation Minister and Agriculture Minister.
Transportation routes being cleared:
Multiple roads are still closed due to flooding and mud slides. But transportation routes are being opened up as quickly as possible, said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Rob Fleming. That includes three main highways: Hwy 99 and Hwy 3 in the Interior, and Hwy 1 Malahat here on Vancouver Island.
The Malahat is closed evenings and overnight (6 pm to 6 am) from November 16 to 22 (or longer, as required) so that clearing and repair of Highway 1 can be done. Daytime traffic on the Malahat is open single-lane alternating, for 30 minute at a time each way.
Additional sailings have been added by BC Ferries to assist with travel from Vancouver Island to other points, including the smaller islands, as well as from Duke Point (Nanaimo) to Swartz Bay (Sidney/Victoria).
Again today (as he did earlier this week), Fleming thanked the federal Transportation Minister Omar Alghabra for the government’s ready assistance (as he did earlier this week). Railways are cooperating to be open as soon as possible. In fact, Farnworth said it’s a “number one priority” to have roadways and railways “back up and operating”.
Federal resources, first responders:
The federal government is providing resources of the Canadian Armed Forces, with ground and air support, said Farnworth, who said his federal counterpart Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair has been readily responsive. Help will be provided at Abbotsford regarding the potential failure of the pump station there.
He thanked all first responders, local governments and volunteers for the assistance they are providing.
Horgan back in action:
This was Premier Horgan’s first full media session in two weeks after announcing his medical leave on October 28 (for biopsy surgery and then commencement of treatment for throat cancer). He also attended the November 11 Remembrance Day ceremony in person, outdoors, in Langford.
Flooding in Langford (list of locations), sandbags available (November 15, 2021)
Premier Horgan back after surgery and working remotely (November 4, 2021)