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Underwater by V.S. Wells

Abbotsford, BC (city of Abbotsford photo) V. S. Wells 8-11 minutes British Columbia has seen forest fires, heat waves, double rainbows, the northern lights and a waterspout in the last six months. Now we can add floods and mudslides to that long list of wild weather.

The dramatic footage of destroyed roads, flooded towns and a runaway giant barge made it to evening news around the world — even before the tragic confirmation of at least one fatality, with more likely to come. More people remain missing. Nearly 18,000 people have had to leave their homes. Flood evacuees are staying in temporary shelters with wildfire evacuees. All of the major highways to and from the Port of Vancouver are shut, meaning supply chain issues are imminent. Power went out all over the Lower Mainland and parts of Vancouver Island.

Premier John Horgan has stressed the need for the province to become more resilient to deal with extreme weather. “I think all British Columbians fully understand that now we have to better prepare for events like this, but we couldn’t have even imagined it six months ago,” he said in a press conference on Wednesday. “We need to start preparing for a future that includes more regular events like this, and we fully intend to do that.”

A lot of people haven’t been impressed by the province’s handling of the latest climate disaster. The government didn’t respond to media requests last Sunday, when meteorologists said in no uncertain terms that an “atmospheric river” was coming. Province-wide emergency alerts weren’t issued. Local governments were left to make their own choices, and B.C. deflected criticism by essentially blaming them for not doing more to protect their citizens.

This summer’s forest fires may also have made the floods worse. Horgan can’t control the weather, but he can certainly control the logging and resource extraction that’s led to the increased scale of devastation.

Last week, before the floods, Robert Hackett wrote in Rabble, “Memories of last summer’s deadly heat domes and wildfires still burn deeply. B.C. is experiencing the global consequences of carbon-intensive extractivism.” He described the province as “clearly in a state of climate emergency — but the government is not in emergency mode.” This hits especially hard when you consider the delayed governmental response to the crisis.

B.C. declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, days after the rain fell. Now, people across the Fraser Valley are running low on supplies as panic buying empties grocery stores. People with medical needs are having problems restocking prescriptions as pharmacies are shut — and people who use drugs aren’t able to access harm reduction options.

And while Sumas Prairie became Sumas Lake, the RCMP were deployed to Wet’suwet’en to arrest land defenders, elders and legal observers, and enforce Coastal GasLink’s injunction. At the time of writing, 14 people have been arrested. Whoever is in charge of this decision needs to consider whether arresting climate protesters in the midst of a highly visible natural disaster is really the best use of police resources.

We’re not out of the woods yet. Monday night into Tuesday could see more rain, and the possibility of another storm. B.C. might have to demonstrate their disaster preparedness sooner than expected.

Stay safe, V.

Underwater by V.S. Wells on flooding
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