The mayor of Abbotsford said that the situation on Sumas Prairie remains “critical” but that the pump station is holding for now.
Mayor Henry Braun said that 184 people have been rescued by air or water and that crews will begin aerial assessments this morning. The city last night pleaded with Sumas Prairie residents to evacuate immediately, and for those who cannot to call 911.
“The surge in water that we’re experiencing… is from the Nooksack river, coming through from Washington State,” Braun said, adding that all four pumps at the Barrowtown Pump Station are at full capacity, together pumping about half a million gallons per minute.
“Pump station is operating at our full capacity… but it was never designed to take on water from another country.”
Braun said that during the night, crews built a dam at the Barrowtown Pump Station to protect it as much as possible.
The mayor said that the absolute worst case scenario would be more rain, which would fill up old Sumas Lake – about 10 metres deep – which takes up the eastern two-thirds of Sumas Prairie.
“Once that lake is full and the Nooksack (River) keeps coming… those pumps cannot keep up with that volume,” Braun said.
“If we had another weather event like we just went through… we are in deep doo doo.”
Massive flooding on Sumas Prairie pic.twitter.com/J4JnCYqyWc
— Ben Lypka (@BenLypka) November 17, 2021
Braun said that officials are hoping that water drops another metre, allowing the city to open the flood gates at Barrowtown, allowing seven times more water through than the four pumps.
He said that the provincial AlertReady system was not off the table as the situation progressed. Provincial officials have been criticized for not utilizing the system despite catastrophic flooding throughout much of the province.
“It was our decision not to activate the alert ready system for whole city of 170,000,” Braun said, adding that he didn’t want to alarm residents living outside of the flood zone.
Abbotsford Police Chief Mike Serr said that most residents had cooperated with evacuation efforts but urged people to stay away from the area and out of the water.
“This water is not something you want your children in a kayak, or you want to be swimming or wading in this water… we’re seeing that,” Serr said. “We appreciate you want to see what’s happening… but we need you to stay away allow the workers and rescuers to be out there doing what they need to do. If we lose a levee or anything like that the water can rush very quickly.”
Serr said that there is currently no one unaccounted for among the Sumas Prairie residents. Anyone who requires help to evacuate should call 911 immediately. Anyone wishing to offer support should call 604-864-5688.