This week, we’re marking a year since the catastrophic Fraser Valley floods caused by a succession of major rainstorms..
The worst damage was done to Abbotsford’s Sumas Prairie area, as well as to several smaller towns farther inland that had all their road links entirely severed by the deluge.
Cities like Langley, Maple Ridge, and Surrey fared better, but their good fortune was more a matter of geography than anything. Fewer low-lying flood plains in the path of all that water simply meant a lucky escape.
However, other types of floods – including a major Fraser River flood, which we are now threatened with approximately every third year – could hit some communities very hard. Parts of Langley, Surrey, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, New Westminster, Delta, and Richmond would face that threat.
Then there’s earthquakes, wildfires, even the threat of a hurricane or other severe windstorm.
We need to take disaster preparedness more seriously in the Lower Mainland. More than half of the population of B.C. lives in this area, and we’ve just been through a disaster that showed how tenuous our road and rail links to the rest of Canada are in the face of nature’s fury.
The most important level of preparedness has to be provincial and regional. We need to upgrade dikes, to create redundancies in key supply links, and to continuously upgrade plans and training for first responders and local volunteers.
Members of the public also need to prepare. Putting together an emergency kit is a good start, but beyond that, people need to think differently.
Thanks to climate change, the public can expect more storms, more droughts, more fires, and more floods. People have to reassess how they rely on the lights always staying on, on the roads always being clear, and on emergency services always being there to come and help us.