Canada and USA – Hundreds Rescued or Evacuated After Floods and Landslides in West

Record rainfall fell in parts of British Columbia (BC) province, western Canada causing floods, mudslides and rockslides. Hundreds of people have evacuated their homes and emergency teams have rescued dozens of people left stranded on highways.

Meanwhile one person is missing and hundreds have evacuated homes after severe floods in neighbouring Washington State, USA.

Landslides, rockslides and flood debris blocked several roads and highways in British Columbia, Canada, 14 November 2021. Photo: Vancouver Fire Rescue Services

Road Closures and Rescues

Rain hitting steep slopes in areas of southern British Columbia triggered numerous mudslides, floods and rockslides. Several roads were washed out or blocked with debris. As of 16 November Drive BC reported road closures in over 40 locations.

Severe damage was reported along the Coquihalla Highway (Highway 5), where a section of was washed away by the surging Coquihalla River near Hope.

Emergency teams using helicopters have been rescuing as many as 275 people who were stranded in vehicles on a stretch of Highway 7 near the city of Agassiz from late 14 November.

Helicopter rescue in Agassiz BC, November 2021. Photo: Vancouver Fire Rescue Services


Heavy rain has increased river levels and flooding or flood threat prompted evacuation orders in several of BC’s regional districts, including Fraser Valley, Okanagan-Similkameen and Thompson-Nicola.

In Thompson-Nicola Regional District, the city of Merritt with a population of around 7,000 issued a city wide evacuation order after flooding damaged 2 bridges on the Coldwater River and the municipality’s wastewater treatment plant causing an “immediate danger to public health and safety.”

Local observers suggested that the flooding in Merritt was worsened by the heavy rain falling on burn scar areas caused by wild fires in the summer.

The city of Abbotsford in Fraser Valley Regional District declared a Local State of Emergency and ordered around 100 households to evacuate in several neighbourhoods threatened by flooding and mudslides.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen declared a state of emergency due to the Similkameen River flooding. Numerous evacuation orders have been issued due to the rising Tulameen River.

Rainfall and Rivers

According to Environment Canada, the heavy rain broke records in around 20 locations, including Abbotsford which recorded 100.4 mm on 14 November, beating the previous high of 48.9 mm set in 1998.

In a period from 13 to 15 November, Hope in Fraser Valley Regional District recorded 225 mm of rain. During the same period, Squamish saw 206 mm; Coquihalla Summit 252 mm; West Vancouver 157 mm; and Agassiz 208 mm.

The Coldwater River at Merritt jumped from 1.2 metres on 12 November to 3.44 metres on 15 November.  On 15 November the Tulameen River at Princeton reached 4.22 metres and the Fraser River at Mission near Abbotsford reached 5.5 metres.

Levels of the Coldwater River at Merritt, British Columbia. Image: Environment Canada
Levels of the Fraser River at Mission, British Columbia. Image: Environment Canada
Levels of the Tulameen River at Princeton, British Columbia. Image: Environment Canada

Washington and Oregon States, USA

Days of heavy rainfall also caused flooding and mudslides in parts of neighbouring Washington State, USA. Quillayute saw a record 4.01 inches / 102 mm of rain on 15 November. Strong winds caused power outages, leaving over 150,000 without electricity in western parts of the state.

On 15 November, Governor Jay Inslee declared a severe weather state of emergency in 14 Western Washington counties.

Severe flooding struck in the the cities of Everson, Sumas and Nooksack in Whatcom County. One person was reported missing by police after being swept away by floods in Everson. Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office said that, as of 15 November, “approximately 500 people have been displaced due to flooding in the north and northeast areas of Whatcom County.”

Flooding was also reported in the town of Hamilton on the Skagit River in Skagit County, where a state of emergency was declared and some evacuations carried out. Communities in Sedro-Woolley, Burlington and Mount Vernon were preparing for flooding from the swollen Skagit River.

The state’s emergency declaration covers the counties of Clallam, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, Lewis, King, Kitsap, Pierce, Mason, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, Thurston, and Whatcom.

Governor Jay Inslee said, “Events leading up to this emergency include a severe wind and rainstorm system that began on Nov. 12, and is forecast to last several days, which is producing extensive flooding in these counties. In addition, a weather pattern that began on Oct. 27, has resulted in saturated soils, which, when combined with the significant precipitation during the event that began on Nov. 12, has created flooding conditions on multiple rivers, and forecast rain along with anticipated rain and snow at mountain elevations are expected to exacerbate flooding conditions.”

Previously severe weather had also affected parts of Oregon, where the US Coast Guard used helicopters to rescue campers from floods in campsites in Neskowin and Otis on 12 November 2021.