‘Atmospheric River’ to Dump Rain Onto a Flooded Western Canada
(Bloomberg) -- British Columbia, home to Canada’s biggest port, is bracing for its most intense deluge after a series of damaging rain storms and historic flooding.
A so-called atmospheric river is threatening to dump more water on parts of the far west province that are already saturated, Armel Castellan, a meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada told reporters Tuesday. Such ‘rivers’ are long, narrow regions in the sky that carry volumes of water from the tropics and release downpours when they make landfall.
Damage from heavy rains have exacerbated supply chain challenges, preventing goods like grain and lumber from reaching the Port of Vancouver and threatening to raise commodity costs at a time when inflation is already hitting consumers.
“This could be the most intense storm yet,” said Mike Farnworth, British Columbia’s minister of public safety. “We have proactively closed roadways that may be at risk of flooding or landslides to protect the public.”
More than 100 millimeters (3.9 inches) of rain are forecast to hit parts of British Columbia’s coast and Vancouver Island between Tuesday and Wednesday evening. Other areas like Fraser Valley, which has already seen some flooding, could receive another 80 millimeters by Wednesday evening, Castellan said.
The province is still grappling with damage from some of its worst floods on record. Crews are working to repair roads and rail tracks as some major routes remain closed and vessels line up at the Port of Vancouver. Over the past two weeks, only a fraction of rail traffic has been able to reach the port.
Transportation and the movement of commodities like grain and fuel have slowed significantly since mid-November, when a rainstorm damaged routes and isolated Vancouver, Canada’s third-largest city, from the rest of the country.
The Port of Vancouver said late Monday that the number of vessels requesting to anchor exceeds its capacity. A 40-acre site is being prepared to temporarily hold empty containers to ease supply chain constraints and bottlenecks in the area.
The damaged infrastructure has caused western Canadian shipments of the world’s biggest lumber producer West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. to drop by 25% to 30% in the second half of the month, the company said Tuesday. Lumber prices have moved higher due to the floods in British Columbia, where roughly 14% of North America’s lumber is produced.
“The biggest hit for us is really on the supply chain,” said Susan Yurkovich, president and chief executive officer of the province’s Council of Forest Industries. “We’ve got major highways, roads, bridges all washed out, making the logistics of shipping our product from mill to market incredibly challenging.”
Shipping challenges could continue for “weeks, if not months” as many rail cars are still stranded and the province is bracing for more storms as it works to repair infrastructure, she said. Companies are warning customers about delays, and the disruptions come as the industry faces higher duties on exports to the U.S., Yurkovich said.
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