Editor's Note: The evacuation alert has since been lifted.
A small island of farmers in Metro Vancouver has been put on evacuation alert after the Fraser River swelled to levels officials say could lead to serious flooding.
Metro Vancouver declared a local state of emergency for Barnston Island at 10 a.m. Thursday, June 30. It warned the 111 residents of the small island between Surrey and Maple Ridge to be prepared for evacuation over the long weekend as water levels continue to climb due to upriver snowmelt and precipitation.
“Nobody is required to leave the island yet. This is just to get people prepared for an evacuation order,” said Metro Vancouver spokesperson Greg Valou.
Valou said Metro Vancouver has established an incident command post opposite Barnston Island in the City of Surrey. That team is helping to patrol dikes, deploy sandbags and monitor the river banks. The Katzie First Nation has deployed sandbags on the south side of the island.
The local state of emergency restricts access to the island to those with businesses, residents and close relatives. Barnston Island Regional Park is also closed.
Metro Vancouver is asking residents to gather essential items like medication, eyeglasses and valuable documents in preparation for a quick escape.
Preparations for evacuation should also include establishing an emergency location where household members can meet in case they are separated during an evacuation; preparing children, disabled and older adults; and arranging accommodation for the entire family if evacuated.
“Emergency lodging will be provided if necessary,” noted Metro Vancouver in a press release.
If time permits, Metro Vancouver also suggests taking steps protect your property from damage.
If residents have pets or livestock, the regional authority asks they get moved to a safe location. That's because once an evacuation order is given, people will be prioritized over animals on the local ferry.
Valou says there are 500 cows, 50 sheep, 20 goats, two donkeys, one horse and over 50 dogs on Barnston Island.
“The only way on or off is a small ferry,” said Valou. “It will be running around the clock.”
In recent days, flood evacuation alerts have also been issued to a number of neighbourhoods in Langley, Fort Langley, Abbotsford and in Harrison Mills just east of Chilliwack.
With files from the Canadian Press