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Drying out wet garages and damp cars: How Port Coquitlam is handling that record rainstorm

Some drainage systems couldn't keep up with the deluge of rainwater, now residents are drying out garages and their cars
Water pumped out of garage in Port Coquitlam
Water is pumped out of an underground parking lot in Port Coquitlam.

Port Coquitlam residents got a clear picture of how vulnerable their city might be in a flooding emergency.

And many are counting themselves lucky that this week’s record-breaking rainstorm didn’t cause worse damage.

“It was scary,” said one woman, who lives on Richmond Place in the Lincoln Park neighbourhood.

The woman told the Tri-City News she was worried as she watched water advance down the road and fill up her lawn.

There was so much water, the resident said, that her waste carts were floating and she had to hold them down so they could be picked up by the garbage truck.

Nearby, a 1998 Honda Civic car filled with water; it’s still drying out, said the resident.

A combination of overfilled pipes, a clogged catchment basin and water draining off a large playing field contributed to the deluge that affected several homes in the area.

On Friday (Nov. 19), there was a small pile of sandbags protecting the driveway of one home on the cul de sac.

Still, residents the Tri-City News spoke to said they were better off than residents in Abbotsford, Sumas Prairie, Princeton and Merritt, which have had devastating floods.

But days after the heavy rainstorm that caused Port Coquitlam underground parking lots and roads and trails to fill with water, many are still wondering what happened.

According to Dave Kidd, the city's manager of public works, as much as 208 mm of water (about 8.2 inches) fell on the city between Saturday and Monday, in some cases overwhelming drainage systems.

Four main areas of the city appeared to be among the hardest hit:

  • Lincoln Park neighbourhood on north side PoCo, where a pump station couldn’t keep up with rain water levels in Cedar ditch
  • Neighbourhoods south of Kingsway Avenue, where some garages filled with water
  • Gates Park where a parking lot filled with water
  • Mary Hill Bypass on ramp to the Pitt River Bridge, which filled up with rain water and was closed to traffic for much of the day

While several preventative measures were taken ahead of the rainfall season (such as catch-basin cleaning, storm main flushing, storm inlet cleaning and pump maintenance) to help manage the weather system, there was so much water in a short amount of time that some drainage systems were overwhelmed.

Crews brought a generator to run the second pump at the Cedar Drive pump station, but it couldn’t handle the inflow of water and quickly backed up, said Kidd.

And while the pumps at Maple Creek were able to keep up with demand, accumulations of rainfall drained into some garages in the nearby Kingsway residential area, prompting sandbagging and pumping efforts at some condos.

At Gates Park, the drainage system was unable to handle the deluge, resulting in several inches of water accumulating on the tarmac, leaving at least one vehicle stranded.

“When the river is higher than the pipe, the water has no where to go,” Kidd said.

Plans are in the works to upgrade both the Maple Creek pump station, at a cost of more than $3 million as well as the Cedar Drive pump station, at a cost of $1.5 million.

The city is also reviewing plans to upgrade the drainage system at Gates Park to prevent flooding.

“This was one of the worst rain events I’ve been involved in. It was halfway up the tires [of the parked cars], that’s as bad as I’ve seen it,” Kidd said.

And with more extreme weather events expected due to climate change, there is a certain urgency to the projects.

“That’s why we have the development of a climate action plan, we are projecting into future years and more frequent rain events. We’re starting to see that already with these atmospheric rivers,” Kidd added.

As for mopping up, in all the city dealt with 130 requests for service and 300 sandbags were used by residents (100 delivered to Bedford complex and the rest were picked up by residents). 

As well, some sections of the Traboulay PoCo Trail and the west side trail were under water, and surfacing material was swept away and will have to be replaced. 

However, the good news is these small projects can be dealt with in the next few years, Kidd said, while for the most part — except for a flooded portion of the Traboulay PoCo Trail under the Kingsway Bridge — the dikes holding back the Pitt and Coquitlam rivers did their jobs. 

“I’m proud of the long hours and hard work our staff put in to responding to this event. Protecting our community and assisting our residents is our top priority and we marshalled the full resources of the city to do just that. We will have a full review to ensure that we continue to improve and implement any changes necessary,” stated Mayor Brad West in an email to the Tri-City News.

In the meantime, anyone with concerns is encouraged  to call and report any city service issues to 604-927-3111 or by reporting it online via the Sort & Report App.

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