Abbotsford mayor says water will remain in Sumas lake bed for weeks

While road closures and localized evacuation warnings have continued to be issued for the past 24 hours due to flooding and rain, Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun is hoping the town can recover from a break in the storms.

“If the weather continues to cooperate in the next few days, we hope to be able to lift these and possibly other evacuation orders in areas as soon as they become clear,” he said during a press conference on December 1st.

Although the rains have subsided for now, he found that rainwater and snowmelt from the surrounding mountains can still enter the Fraser Valley and cause an unexpected surge in water.

For those traveling through the area, Highway 1 will remain closed to all traffic due to the flooding.

Some good news was spread on Wednesday. Braun said Whatcom County officials in Washington state have confirmed the Nooksack River has reached a crown and is not expected to overflow. This helps the situation along Abbotsford’s southern border, where the neighborhood of Huntingdon Village still has evacuation orders due to flooding.

Due to the flood on December 1, he found that the locks between the Sumas River and the Fraser River had to be closed for much of the day, but should be reopened later today. Patrols will continue along the levee and in Huntingdon to monitor the situation.

Due to the persistent rain, the water in the Sumas lake bed has only dropped an inch in the past 24 hours. Braun said it will take a long time for the agricultural region to return to normal.

“The water in the bottom of the lake, which is likely 3 to 3.5 km in diameter, will be there for a number of weeks and we don’t really know what’s under it until the water recedes,” he told reporters.

For those in areas where evacuation orders are being lifted, the city is preparing a return home plan, according to Braun. He noted that Abbotsford’s long-term rebound will require the involvement of the provincial and federal governments, which he said earlier.

“It is vital that we protect our infrastructure because the damage to our economy as a whole, not just in this province but across the country, is enormous,” he said of Abbotsford’s role as a hub in the Fraser Valley and transportation corridor

With another 60mm of rain on Abbotsford, the city hit 540mm in November, a record. That is the equivalent of half a meter of water that falls on every part of the city, and is equivalent to a third of what the city receives in a year.

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