All residents in Sumas Prairie must leave their homes immediately due to significant risk to life
The Fraser River is expected to flood into the Sumas Prairie and surrounding areas on Tuesday night, leading to catastrophic damage and potential of significant risk to life.
At 8 p.m. on Tuesday, the City of Abbotsford issued a warning that all residents of the Sumas Prairie – the low-lying area to the south-east of Abbotsford – evacuate immediately.
There was an evacuation warning issued earlier in the day, but some people had remained. There is also an evacuation order at present in the neighbouring Yarrow area in Chilliwack.
In a prepared statement, the City of Abbotsford said the Barrowtown Pump Station – that serves as a critical piece of infrastructure to ensure the Sumas Lake does not reform – was about to fail.
“With the failure of this key piece of infrastructure, water within the Sumas Prairie will not be able to be pumped out and water from the Fraser River will begin entering the already flooded Sumas Prairie area,” the statement read.
The event is anticipated to be catastrophic. The City of Abbotsford has shut-off water to the area.
In the city’s warning to remaining residents to get out fast, it states there is a “significant risk to life.”
The four-pump Barrowtown Pump Station is at the top of the Sumas Lake Canal, south of the where the Chilliwack River flows into the Fraser, and keep the Fraser River at bay.
According to 2013 report written by City of Abbotsford staff seeking money to upgrade the electrical system in the facility (built between 1977 and 1983) if the station fails it will result in around $500 million in damages and impact “major transportation and utility corridors such as Higway 11, 1, railways, underground gas/oil”
“Major flooding in the area would significantly impact food producers and food processing companies, and cause job losses which typically takes 5-10 years to recover,” the report stated. There are around 1,400 farms in the Sumas Prairie.
The last time a major flood event occurred in the Fraser River was in May 1948 when 16,000 people were forced from their homes and 22,000 hectares ended up under water.
Last March, the Fraser Basin Council issued a report stating a major flood of the river could cost between $20-30 billion in damages.
The council stated the Fraser River dike system that protects large parts of the valley were vulnerable to failure.
more to follow