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'I feel much better today': Abbotsford mayor confident city can hold off current floodwaters

Floodgates have opened into the Fraser River
Volunteers in Abbotsford as young as 10 came together to help shovel sandbags for their neighbours after floodwaters drove over 1,100 people from Sumas Prairie, Nov. 16, 2021.

The mayor of Abbotsford is confident the city can hold off the next storm so long as it doesn't dump unexpected amounts of rain.

A variety of factors mean the situation in Abbotsford isn't as dire as it could have been after the second of three storms, Mayor Henry Braun said during a press conference Nov. 29.

"The water didn't come here as quickly as it was predicted on the U.S. side," he explained. "We were told that we could expect it in a shorter time than the flood of 2020."

Instead of taking five or six hours, it has taken closer to 19 hours to reach Abbotsford from where the Nooksack River has gone over its banks in Washington State.

"It also had a lot to do with the Fraser River dropping so we could open up the floodgates at 1:30 a.m.," Braun said.

That allowed the Sumas River to flow freely into the much larger river, opening up capacity further up the Sumas River for further rainwater, snowmelt and floodwaters from the U.S.

That said, new evacuation orders were issued overnight for areas where there are concerns of landslides thanks to the water, in the Huntingdon neighbourhood in Abbotsford new flooding is being reported. Overnight the roads in the residential neighbourhood weren't covered, but prior to the press conference, Braun said they were under two feet of water.

While the Nooksack River has overflowed, he noted, that water has stayed west of the Sumas Prairie. That land is still flooded Braun said, but water levels dropped two inches over the last 24 hours, despite the continued rainfall.

With the third storm on its way, Braun said he's confident the city's infrastructure will be able to handle things so long as another 200 mm of rain doesn't fall again. Currently, Environment Canada is predicting 50 to 100 mm for the Fraser Valley.

When asked by media about concerns with the American side of the border he explained he isn't sure about how things are going exactly in the repairs of dikes in Whatcom county, though he noted the breaching seen in Canada, were related to a dike breach in the US. An additional concern is Mt. Baker; the volcano holds a large amount of snow and depending on temperatures and rainfall some of that may melt.

That water goes into the Nooksack River.

Overall, though, Braun is confident what's being done in Abbotsford is going to hold.

"I feel much better today than I did yesterday at this point on the second event," he said. "The third one is still an unknown; everything is holding so I think we're in good shape."