Home Health Safety Storm cleanup includes highway closures, dislocation includes heightened COVID risk

Storm cleanup includes highway closures, dislocation includes heightened COVID risk

PHO: Two-thirds of COVID cases in BC are AY 25 & AY 27 strains; new AY 4.2 now in BC | Transportation links to be open asap, says Transportation Minister Fleming. | One mudslide fatality.

Tuesday November 16, 2021 | LANGFORD, BC

by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends

Many roads, homes, businesses and communities have been disrupted and have incurred damage due to the windstorm and heavy rainfall that started on Sunday November 14 and continued through into the night of Monday November 15.

There was an Environment Canada weather warning issued on the weekend, and people did take heed. But the storm had high-impact in many areas.

drive bc, west shore parkway, hwy 1
Northbound traffic backup on Highway 1 west of West Shore Parkway (Langford), at noon on Tues Nov 16, 2021. [Drive BC]

Notably on south Vancouver Island there was flooding in many locations (see list of Langford area flooding and sandbag pickup locations) which also led to closures of some major highways on November 15 (including Highway 1 west of West Shore Parkway and the Malahat, and Highway 14 at Impala which blocked access to and from Sooke).

Highway repairs:

For the next week, road repairs will continue on the Malahat stretch of Highway 1 during November 16 to 22: Nov 16 (7pm-6am), Nov 17-22 (6pm-6am). Also during daytime today and daytime through to November 22: single-lane alternating, 30 min intervals.

All of that is to repair Highway 1 weather damage at Tunnel Hill including “excavating out the northbound lanes” of the highway, said Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure rep Janelle Staite today in a BC news conference about the weather impacts. Highway 1 north of West Shore Parkway in Langford will not be accessible. Non-essential travel should be avoided, the Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure said in a news release at 2:15 pm today.

MOTI says that with the cooperation of BC Ferries, the ferry between Mill Bay and Brentwood Bay has added four more sailings through this evening and overnight, to help with traffic that would otherwise be using the Malahat stretch of Highway 1.

Flooding has pulled back in Sooke:

Sooke Potholes park and campground had been flooded quite heavily yesterday, but the District of Sooke reported those as open today at about 2 pm.

Widespread power outages:

At one point yesterday afternoon over 115,000 BC Hydro customers across BC were without electricity. Almost half of that power outage impact was on Vancouver Island; over 50,000 BC Hydro customers were without power on the island at one point yesterday; that number was down to 25,000 for south Vancouver Island by late evening.

jdf emerg, power outage, ad

Sometimes the access for BC Hydro crews take a while, and likely there was demand overload for available crew to arrive at so many outages around the island.

Several thousand customers in Colwood and Langford had to await power from early afternoon (outages started in the 1 to 3 pm range) until the early hours this morning, as transmission lines and other BC Hydro equipment serving that area was particularly hard hit (outage was 10 hours long in some areas).

Some BC Hydro customers in the Langford area have another outage coming up starting at 10 pm on Thursday evening November 18, pre-scheduled to last up to eight hours (to 6 am on Friday November 19).

Parents of children age 5 to 11 years are encouraged to register their children for getting the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine which is likely coming soon, said Dr Henry. She emphasized that more transmission is likely during the holiday season when people are gathering for more events, likely most of those indoors.

Disruption includes COVID risk:

Dr Bonnie Henry, November 16, 2021
Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry during COVID update, Nov 16, 2021.

For people who had to be evacuated from communities due to flooding, there could be increased risk of COVID exposure, said Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry today in her weekly update on COVID in BC.

This comes as a new even more transmissible and virulent COVID-19 Delta variant called Y.4.2 is appearing in BC (three cases in Fraser Health). Now two-thirds of COVID-19 cases in BC are the AY-25 and AY-27 strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. There are 120 different sublineages of the original SARS-COV-2 around the world, the PHO said today.

Both Dr Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix thanked emergency workers for their dedication and hard work over the past few days. That included relocating people who were in ICU (whether for COVID or otherwise) out of flood-zone areas.

Health minister, Adrian Dix
Health Minister Adrian Dix thanks emergency response by health-care workers to relocate ICU patients out of flooded areas (Merritt and Princeton), Nov 16, 2021.

Today Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said roads and railway access has been lost in many flooded areas.

The delivery of vaccine supplies into impacted flood areas in the BC Interior had to be done ‘by other means’ (i.e. air/helicopter) due to roads being inaccessible, said Dr Henry today.

Public Safety Minister & Transportation Minister Update:

Today at 3:30 pm Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, along with Emergency Management BC, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (Minister Rob Fleming, gave a weather emergency update. He was joined by Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure staffers Janelle Staite for South Coast and Paula Cousins for Interior), River Forecast Centre rep Dave Campbell, RCMP E Division Deputy Commissioner Dwayne McDonald, and Environment Canada rep Armel Castellan about the flooding and mudslides that resulted from this major mid-November storm.

Minister Farnworth led the media session reporting a death resulting from the weather-impacted mudslide area near Lillooet, as reported by RCMP in the Pemberton-Lillooet area. The woman’s death was also reported by RCMP Officer McDonald.

mike farnworth
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth: “Climate change is a reality that’s here to stay.” [Nov 16, 2021]

Minister Fleming says BC is working with Transport Canada to help activate the essential movement of goods and supplies. “We will do everything we can to get transportation links open,” said Fleming.

“Climate change is a reality that’s here to stay,” said Minister Farnworth. He said “there’s already a lot of work being done” to inform people about expected emergency situations. He itemized weather alerts and roadway advisories.

Rob Fleming, transportation minister
Rob Fleming, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure: “Worst weather storm in a century.” [Nov 16, 2021]
dumont tirecraft, winter road safety