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‘Parade of storms’ heading for British Columbia

There are two more atmospheric rivers in British Columbia’s forecast over the coming days, though neither is expected to be as intense as the one that triggered widespread flooding and landslides last week.

Environment and Climate Change Canada said those atmospheric rivers, expected to arrive on the South Coast on Thursday and Saturday, are part of a “parade of storms” approaching as several communities remain flooded in the province’s southwest.

“We’re not looking at necessarily the same copious amounts (of rain) as we saw two weekends ago, but we are looking at a very strong signal throughout the weekend, and through next week we continue to have active storms,” said Armel Castellan, warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada.

The first weather system is expected to deliver rain and warm tropical air Thursday, potentially resulting in snow melt at higher elevations. Castellan said upwards of 100 millimetres is expected on the North Shore Mountains, while parts of the Fraser Valley could see between 40 and 75 millimetres.

A short break is anticipated before the next atmospheric river arrives on Saturday afternoon.

Atmospheric rivers are defined as long, narrow streams of high water vapour concentrations that can deliver intense amounts of rainfall over a short period. The one that hit last week dumped a month’s worth of rain onto some areas of B.C. in less than 48 hours.

This summer’s intense heat waves and years of destructive wildfire seasons have increased the likelihood of landslides and flooding, Castellan added, noting that some parts of the South Coast have also seen upwards of 200 per cent of their normal rainfall this season.

“So a lot of that moisture that is coming is more immediately a runoff issue,” he said.

Environment and Climate Change Canada has been working with Emergency Management B.C. for days providing the most up-to-date predictions, the meteorologist said, but it’s difficult to pinpoint where natural disasters such as landslides might hit.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday morning, Deputy Premier Mike Farnworth said the government is bracing for the upcoming storms, and encouraged the public to keep abreast of weather warnings and alerts in the meantime.

There were no warnings in effect for the Lower Mainland as of early Monday afternoon.

Experts have warned that extreme weather events like the ones B.C. has experienced this year are likely to become more common – and more destructive – as global temperatures rise as a result of human-caused climate change.

“Climate change is here and I think what we saw this past weekend is obviously a result of that,” Farnworth said. “We know that climate change is upon us. We know that there are more and more of these events happening.”

On Saturday, officials confirmed that Environment and Climate Change Canada is working on a new ranking system to warn people about the severity of incoming atmospheric rivers.

Farnworth said the ranking, which is expected to launch in January, will allow officials to “prepare more effectively” for potential disasters.

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