December 10, 2014 by Justin Smallbridge, THE CANADIAN PRESS
VANCOUVER – Some 30,000 sandbags line a stretch of low-lying waterfront land in Vancouver, placed by city workers in a bid to protect local homes from an anticipated king tide.
The task was completed by about 45 workers in advance of Wednesday’s forecasted weather event, which could coincide with the same type of high winds and heavy rains that have already cut power to thousands of residents across the south coast and flooded streets.
In the Vancouver Island city of Courtenay, for example, municipal leaders declared a state of emergency because of flooding that has closed roads, facilities and parks. The city has asked about two dozen residents to leave a mobile-home park.
A local state of emergency was also declared in part of Tsawwassen where Delta mayor Lois Jackson said a section of seawall about 70 feet long has collapsed.
Jackson said the collapse has opened that entire area to the sea.
George Harvie of Delta’s engineering department said a house near the wall has been evacuated and crews hope barriers they have erected are strong enough to hold.
Considering the time of year, though, the powerful weather like king tides is not completely unanticipated.
The B.C. Ministry of Environment website reports they occur about twice a year, are typically more dramatic in the winter, and occur when the sun and moon’s gravitational forces reinforce each other, and the moon is closest to the earth.
Brian Crowe, a spokesman for Courtenay’s engineering department, said king tides can approach five metres in elevation, or about one metre higher than a typical high tide, and can form storm surges when they are combined with low-pressure systems.
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He said Wednesday’s king tide is forecast for 5.5 metres, which is the same elevation of water that flooded Locarno Beach Park on the city’s waterfront in 2012, but not nearby homes.
“We have sandbagged about 200 metres in the lowest area along Marine Drive adjacent to the park to ensure the water can’t get past the edge of the park into the neighbourhood,” he said.
“This is a proactive move. We don’t actually believe the water will be high enough tomorrow to cross the street, but we have high tides happening periodically through the Christmas season until early in January.”
Local resident Fabio Levy said he’s glad to see the work because homeowners can’t get insurance for flooding. Still, he said he would prefer to see a more permanent solution to the threat.
He said he saw water flood the nearby park in 2012.
“It does scare everybody,” he said. “I mean it is a concern, and the tide could happen in the middle of the night or in the middle of the day. We never know.”
The work near Locarno Beach Park was completed in advance of another rainfall warning issued for Metro Vancouver.
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A frontal system is expected to approach the region overnight, and Environment Canada says it could bring as much as 50 millimetres of rain to the east coast of Vancouver Island and Metro Vancouver’s North Shore mountains.
The agency has warned of flooding in low-lying areas, and possible washouts near rivers, creeks and culverts.
B.C. Hydro issued a news release earlier in the day, stating a separate weather system hit communities on northern Vancouver Island, Surrey and the Fraser Valley hard.
It said as many as 29,000 customers were without power at one point.
The inclement weather also forced Vancouver Island communities like Port Alberni and Courtenay to close roads and some facilities due to flooding.
Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula said the city has asked residents of a year-round mobile home park to leave because of flooding.
“There are about 55 residents there and I believe about 24 who chose to leave and the rest have stayed,” he said.
Jangula said several businesses and homes are affected, though the extent of damage has not yet been determined.