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City gets ready as river rises
The mighty Fraser River is flexing its muscle and its strength could begin to have a significant impact in New Westminster by the end of the week.
Provincial officials reported there was heavy rainfall and rapid snowmelt over the weekend in the B.C. Interior, particularly in the Thompson River basin which contributes approximately 30 per cent of the Fraser's volume in New Westminster, and to a lesser extent in the Upper Fraser River.
It typically takes five to six days for rainfall and snowmelt up north to reach the Lower Mainland.
The river was expected to rise to 6.7 metres at the gauge in Mission on the weekend, but it only hit 6.3 metres.
“We weren’t seeing anything except for some storm drains backing up.”
Current provincial government forecasts for the upcoming weekend are predicting the Mission gauge will peak between 6.7 and 7.3 metres. Any more rain this week and that height could climb. If the gauge starts to nudge 7.5 metres, city crews will move into action. “That [level] takes a wee bit of time to get down here,” said Jones.
Large, white 400-pound sandbags have been strategically placed in Quayside, Queensborough and the Braid industrial area ready to be moved into position. Other measures such as inflatable aquadams to help protect property and closing of transportation routes, may be taken as well.
Jones said for the long weekend coming up, the city is looking at putting up warning signs.
The Inn at the Quay underground parking was closed on the weekend. Jones said it was designed to be a bit lower than other garages in the area so it could take in water.
“If you don’t give the water somewhere to go that’s worse.”
He also said it’s better to let the water recede by itself because pumping the water out of the garage can also create structural issues.
Jones said the Larco property between Westminster Pier Park and the River Market is of particular concern and has been for a while. He pointed out some lock blocks are still evidence of the 2007 flood mitigation program.
He cited SkyTrain, BC Hydro and Kruger Products as those who will have to deal with their own property. His department is also keeping in touch with Quayside and Queensborough strata councils to make them aware of their responsibilities.
On top of the upper Fraser contributing 60 per cent to the river’s volume in New West, and the Thompson’s 30 per cent, about 10 per cent comes from the Pacific Ocean.
That’s why, Jones said, New Westminster’s dike patrols are done at high tide. So far, “we’re not having bizarre high tides.” He also said rain can add up to a foot of water to the river’s levels in the city.
The city is providing updates on its website (www.newwestcity.ca), and residents can sign up for bulletins. It also has links to provincial websites.