Vancouver Island and the lower mainland braced for the worst as another ‘atmospheric river’ swept over the region Nov. 14 and 15.
The storm caused floods, washouts, mudslides and sink holes, stranding communities and claiming the lives of five people – one man remains missing. All were lost in the deadly mudslide on Highway 99, 35 kilometres north of Lillooet.
The mid-November rainstorm did not hit Nuu-chah-nulth territories as hard. Some communities saw power failures and the road to Nitinaht Lake flooded for a relatively short period of time. It was nothing unusual for this time of the year.
On Vancouver Island travel on southern communities was disrupted when the Malahat suffered extensive damage due to heavy rainfall. Highway One was closed near Tunnel Hill on Nov. 16 as the northbound side of the road collapsed. The road was open during the day for single-lane essential services traffic. It was closed during the night for repairs.
Malahat commuters were advised to take the Pacific Marine Route through Sooke, Port Renfrew and Duncan. Some took the Brentwood Bay to Mill Bay ferry to bypass the Malahat. BC Ferries added additional sailings to accommodate stranded travelers.
They also ran an extraordinary ferry sailing from Swartz Bay in Saanich to Duke Point in Nanaimo, supporting the movement of essential goods and travelers between Victoria and Nanaimo due to the impacts on the Malahat Highway. The three-hour round-trip BC Ferries sailings took place on Thursday, Nov. 18.
By Nov. 22 temporary repairs to the Malahat portion of Highway 1 were complete, opening both lanes of the highway.
But just north of Nanaimo a large sinkhole was discovered on Nov. 18, closing Highway 19, forcing motorists to use a detour. Traffic in and out of north Nanaimo was snarled for the weekend of Nov. 20 and 21. Some drivers reported that the normally one-hour trip between Port Alberni and Nanaimo took more than three.
Meanwhile highway closures and flooding throughout B.C. drove a hoarding frenzy as people lined up at gas stations and grocery stores, buying up fuel, meat, produce and toilet paper.
Several service stations in the Greater Victoria area ran out of fuel while prices skyrocketed further up island. The provincial government imposed a limit of 30 liters of fuel per visit.
“B.C. is prioritizing gasoline and diesel for essential vehicles, while working to keep fuel available for people in B.C.,” stated the province. “Under the Emergency Program Act, an order restricting the purchase of vehicle fuel in certain regions of the province is in place until November 30 at midnight.”
A provincial state of emergency was declared Nov. 17.
“This provincewide declaration will help us with the challenges ahead as we recover from the utter devastation that’s been caused by this natural disaster,” said Mike Farnworth, minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “Getting our rail and roadways back up and in operation is a top priority, and the declaration will enable us to put the resources in place to make that happen.”
On Nov. 17 Ucluelet Mayor Mayco Noel issued a social media post assuring west coast residents that they would be okay.
“I wish to ensure everyone knows we are good here with supplies and food,” he wrote.
The Co-op Federation is keeping on top on things for us, he continued.
“Items coming from Alberta are being flown to Vancouver and trucked to the West Coast stores for the next couple weeks to ensure no disruptions in supply,” Noel wrote. “Be Safe, think of others and no one will go without.”