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Floods trigger road closures in Pacific Northwest

Canadian city cut off via land from rest of country

A massive wind and rainstorm that began Friday triggered flooding and mudslides in the Pacific Northwest near the Canada border, leading to evacuations, power outages and the closure of several highways.

British Columbia

The storm slammed parts of Canada, where wind and storm warnings were issued Monday in British Columbia.

The entire city of Merritt was ordered to evacuate after the municipal wastewater treatment plant failed, CBC reported, and authorities used helicopters to rescue 275 people who had been stranded on a main highway. The province saw rain and wind and even forecast snow that caused power outages and prompted officials to close schools and block some roadways, according to CTV News Vancouver.

As of Monday afternoon there was no way to drive between Vancouver and the rest of Canada. The Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley had been completely cut off. Flooding and mudslides had closed most routes between the coast and the British Columbia interior. The only way to drive between the coast and the rest of Canada at this time continues to be through the United States.

However, as previously noted, Washington is also seeing highway closures due to the weather and residents would need a COVID-19 test to reenter Canada.

Look for the latest British Columbia road closures here.

Pacific Northwest

Landslides caused by multiple rounds of heavy rain and intense winds in recent days, as well as saturated soil, led to the closure of Interstate 5  Monday night. The West Coast’s main north-south highway, which had been shut down in both directions, reopened Tuesday. However, U.S. Highway 101, another major north-south route in the region, remained closed in some areas.

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Dramatic drone video posted by the city of Bellingham showed abandoned cars submerged in the streets, as well as people using kayaks to get around.

Bellingham International Airport (ICAO code: BLI) received a daily record of 1.89 inches of rain Monday, after a daily record of 2.78 inches Sunday. The city has seen measurable rainfall every day for the past week, for a total of 6.81 inches. Normal total rainfall for the same time period is 1.26 inches.

People were evacuated in several parts of the state and more than 158,0000 customers in western Washington had no power at one point Monday afternoon, the Associated Press reported. The number of customers without power was down to about 46,000 as of Tuesday afternoon, according to

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared a severe weather state of emergency for 14 counties in the western part of the state.

“Thanks to all the crews working to keep Washingtonians safe,” Inslee tweeted Monday evening.

The devastating flooding also extended into Oregon, where officials in one area rescued 20 people and three dogs from an inundated RV park. Heavy flooding across the state closed roads, trapped people in their homes and knocked out power in one area, the Salem Statesman Journal reported.

Despite rainfall subsiding, flood warnings remain in effect for Bellingham and other areas of northwestern Washington. Because of excessive runoff, it could take a day or two for waterways to recede to or below their flood stages.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.