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Abbotsford preparing for another atmospheric river as floodwaters remain

The city is 'laser-focused' on repairing the dike and pumping water out of Sumas Prairie, says the mayor.
Canadian Armed Forces members help sandbag, following massive flooding in the Fraser Valley.

While floodwaters remain on Sumas Prairie and residents are still under evacuation orders, the City of Abbotsford is rushing to prepare for another significant rain event.

City staff and experts are looking at the forecast and planning for heavy rains while crews hurry to repair the dike holding back water from the already flooded area. The city's mayor says they're "actively preparing" for another atmospheric river forecast for later this week.

"What this means is we're using projections to anticipate water levels and how they will interact with the status of our dikes," explained Mayor Henry Braun Nov. 23 during a press conference. "All of the repair and the reinforcement work to the dikes so far have been done to ensure we have the best protection possible should the Nooksack River overflow again and water comes in from Washington State."

He added the city is laser-focused on the flooded area in light of the incoming weather.

During the heavy rains, the dike holding back the Sumas River was breached in four places. While the dike has been sealed and water is no longer flowing from the river into the flat farming land, it's not fully repaired.

Henry said that repairs have been completed in two of the locations. The main dike breach near No. 3 Road is 80 per cent repaired and more height is being added before crews move to an eroded section upstream.

Braun noted the breaches made up less than one per cent of the dike system and while it's been mostly inspected, there are sections of the dike system that can't be inspected as they're inaccessible underwater.

In preparation for the incoming rain, the Barrowtown pump station, which moves water from the Sumas River into the Fraser River, is being reinforced with sandbags.

"This pump station is an integral piece of infrastructure that we need to maintain operations," Braun said.

Canadian Forces troops are helping clear culverts and sandbagging near the historic Clayburn village. That's in the Matsqui Prairie, which has also faced flooding issues.

Assessments are also taking place, including 21 bridges, 88 kilometres of road and 357 culverts.

"I'm hopeful this will put us in the best position to manage the rain that will come," Braun said.

Even though evacuation orders ended yesterday, Braun noted people may not be able to return to their homes and businesses, as there may be structural issues. City staff have been doing rapid damage assessments on areas affected by the flood.