Mere months after battling extreme temperatures of near 50 C (122 F) and a harrowing wildfire season, British Columbia was battered by floods so severe they unmoored a beached barge, forced thousands to evacuate, and cut off parts of Vancouver and surrounding communities from the rest of Canada.
Record-breaking rainfall touched down in B.C. over the weekend, with mudslides washing out major highways, including Highway 99, which connects B.C.’s lower mainland region to the rest of the province—and the country.
Hundreds of cars were stranded, prompting a series of military helicopter rescue efforts to get families out.
"You could see the waterfall coming, and I thought, 'Is this going to hit?'” a stranded British Columbian told CBC News. “It sounds cliché, but I really thought, 'Is this the day I am done?'"
B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth told reporters Monday that thousands of people have had to evacuate their homes. All 7,000 residents in Merritt, a city about 270 kilometres northeast of Vancouver, were forced to flee, and their wastewater treatment plant failed. The nearby Nooaitch Indian Band also had to evacuate.
Residents across southern B.C. are still on guard as rainfall, snowfall, winter storm, and wind warnings remain in effect. While the torrential rain is likely to wane on Tuesday, some communities have seen as many as 250 millimetres of rain in two days—more than Vancouver typically logs during the entire month of November on average.
No injuries or deaths have been reported so far.
Images of the floods and mudslides have been circulating online.
Meanwhile, a massive beached rogue barge was spotted floating just off Vancouver’s seawall, #Bargemegaddon, and now has its own meme Twitter account. The local coast guard told reporters there were no public safety or pollution risks, and that its owner is collecting the barge at the earliest opportunity.
The latest disasters are caused by an “atmospheric river,” or a corridor of concentrated tropical moisture that has brought with it excessive rainfall, flooding, severe winds, and mudslides across the Pacific Northwest.
Western Washington has also been hit hard. Roads, homes, and businesses have all been affected and high winds cut power for more than 170,000 people.
Follow Anya Zoledziowski on Twitter.