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Water will remain in Sumas lake bed for weeks, says Abbotsford mayor

The city recorded 540 mm of rain in November
Whatcom Road in Abbotsford flooded with water.

While road closures and localized evacuation alerts still being issued over the last 24 hours due to the floodwaters and rain, Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun is hopeful a break in the storms will allow the city to recover somewhat.

"If the weather continues to cooperate over the next few days, we hope to be able to start lifting these and potentially other evacuation orders in areas as they become clear," he said during a press conference Dec. 1.

That said, while the rains have abated for now, he noted rainwater and snowmelt from the surrounding mountains are still coming down into the Fraser Valley and may cause water to rise unexpectedly.

For those travelling through the area, Highway 1 remains closed to all traffic due to the flooding.

Some good news was shared Wednesday. Braun said Whatcom County officials in Washington State had confirmed the Nooksack River has crested and isn't expected to overflow its banks. That's helping the situation along Abbotsford's southern border, where the neighbourhood of Huntingdon Village still has evacuation orders due to flooding.

Due to high tides on Dec. 1, he noted the floodgates between the Sumas River and Fraser River had to be closed for a good portion of the day, but they should open again later today. Patrols will continue along the dike and in Huntingdon to monitor the situation.

Because of the ongoing rain, the water in the Sumas lake bed only dropped by one inch over the last 24 hours. Braun said it'll be a long time before the agricultural region is back to normal.

"The water in the lake bottom, which is probably about 3-3.5 km in diameter, that water is going to be there for a number of weeks and we don't really what's under there yet until that water recedes," he told reporters.

For those in areas that are about to see evacuation orders lifted, Braun said the city is preparing a return-to-home plan. He noted a long-term recovery for Abbotsford will require the involvement of the provincial and federal governments, something he's said before.

"It is critically important that we protect our infrastructure because the damage to our economy overall, not just in this province but across our country, is enormous," he said about Abbotsford's role as a hub in the Fraser Valley and transportation corridor

With another 60 mm of rain falling on Abbotsford, the city reached 540 mm in November, a record. That's equivalent to two feet of water falling on every part of the city, and equals a third of what the city receives in a year.