The Globe and Mail has a comprehensive report on the flooding of the rivers of the Northwest, as those rivers seem to develop a mind of their own and set a new course through portions of towns and cities across the region.
This link to the Globe webpage takes you to a number of other features, videos and slides about the situation to the east of Prince Rupert.
Rising flood waters isolate B.C. communities
Beautiful riverfront homes on the Skeena are now surrounded by water, their second-floor decks now resemble docks
BILL CURRY , ARMINA LIGAYA and IAN BAILEY
From Friday's Globe and Mail
June 7, 2007 at 10:15 PM EDT
TERRACE, SMITHERS and VANCOUVER, B.C. — From a helicopter flying over the bulging, brown Skeena River, it is clear how the force of the water slashed a northwestern logging town's connections to the outside world.
All highways in and out of Terrace were closed Thursday due to flooding and landslides. Rail lines are submerged, leaving the airport and an unreliable logging road as the only way in or out.
The river has crept down streets and surrounded houses that were once well away from the river. Beautiful riverfront homes are surrounded by water, their second-floor decks looking more like docks.
Those with trucks brave the town's flooded streets, while others use canoes.
Emergency officials say hundreds of residents forced to flee raging rivers in northwestern B.C. will be out of their homes for a from seven to 10 days
Major winter snowpack melting in the northwestern Skeena and Bulkley valleys continues to be the main source of damage and disruption.
Jim Whyte, operations director for the Provincial Emergency Program, said the northwest is facing "fairly severe flooding." "We have water three feet up the sides of houses and people are out of their homes, and they are going to be out of their homes for probably seven to 10 days minimum. The water is still roaring through there. It's still at or near its peak flow. There's no opportunity to get damage assessment teams in there. There's no opportunity at this time to do any kind of mitigation work."
The people of the Lower Mainland got good news when the expected water levels on the Lower Fraser River at Mission were downgraded for the third day in a row.
Allan Chapman, head of B.C.'s River Forecast Centre, said a large, widespread frontal rain — which is heavy rain along the fronts of two air masses of different temperatures, humidity and density — would be "the most critical factor" for the next two weeks.
"That might bring 30 to 60 millimetres of rain to the watershed. That would be the most dominant weather risk issue. Currently we do not see that in the weather [forecast] models."
He said there is some rain in the forecast, but it appears to be lighter and moving through the area quickly. Without a heavy rain in the next two weeks, the worst may be over, he indicated.
Just upriver from Terrace in the village of Usk, two people were paddling over the submerged CN rail line.
To the east of town, near the native community of New Remo, a string of train cars sits abandoned on a bridge, the bloated river lapping against the steel wheels. The cars were placed there to help secure the bridge in the hope that it will withstand the record force of the Skeena valley's spring melt.
Further east along the Bulkley River at Smithers, volunteers covered in mud and standing hip-deep in murky brown water passed sandbags in an assembly line to hold back the river when it abruptly flowed inland, threatening nearby homes.
Thursday, the water rushed around the 30,000-sandbag dike and flowed into a field near Kidd Road. Volunteers began stacking sandbags and a call went out for more workers.
"The river almost wants to take a new course. So all these houses are in trouble," Harry Leffers said.
The Bulkley River was at a record discharge of 1,000 cubic metres a second, the largest flow in about 80 years, and a flood warning was in place, according to the B.C. River Forecast Centre.
About 70 volunteers built sandbag dikes to control the water, and protect the homes.
Volunteers built a large dike on Monday along the Bulkley River. But yesterday, thick trees downstream forced the water over the land.
Mr. Leffers, whose home usually sits about a half-mile from the water, is now living on riverside property. The water flowed over the fields, sweeping away a wooden fence, and converting the pond outside his home into a rushing river, he said.
Sid Koldyk, a Kidd Road resident who helped co-ordinate the sandbag effort, said he expected the flooding, but not to this degree.
He said Smithers residents knew there was record snowfall, and just days ago the mountains flanking the town were capped with thick snow. Yesterday, rock could be seen peaking through. But ski hills, normally bare at this time, he said, were still fluffy white.
"It's the highest [river] level ever recorded," he said. "You might not even see it again for 100 years. Last year, it didn't even threaten, it usually never does."
Steven Zandberg, 18, came out to volunteer after he was evacuated from his family home on Columbia Street. A metre-high dike was built behind his house, one of 34 in the evacuated area, he said.
"They're saying it's going to break pretty soon," he said.
Evacuation orders were issued for more than 25 homes in Smithers, and about 40 homes were on evacuation alert, said Tanya Thomson, spokeswoman for the district of Bulkley-Nechako.
Meanwhile, in Telkwa, south of Smithers, about 20 workers from the Fire Control Forest Service stacked sandbags along the raging Bulkley River at Telkwa Riverside Park. Emergency crews were on standby in case any of the workers fell into the swift moving water.
Jim Harrhy stacked sandbags around his home that sits less than 50 metres from the river. He hasn't seen any water in his basement in the 14 years he has lived there, he said, but he wanted to err on the side of caution.
"I'm not confident, but I'm hoping for the best," he said.
Janet Hazlehurst, a Telkwa resident for 15 years, said she expects the water to rise even more.
"It's only the beginning," she said. "I don't think the Telkwa River [which feeds the Bulkley] has let loose yet."
Randy Cunningham, emergency co-ordinator for Telkwa, said no evacuation alerts were issued, but about 130 homes were on the flood plain. In addition to the dikes, the city has set up an emergency centre, he said. "When you see a full bank river flowing, and rain for two days, you'd have to be concerned."
He said the swift current is "scary," but the community is prepared for the worst.
"We just hope to hang in there and keep our community in one piece."
Farther west along the blocked Highway 16 in Prince Rupert, Mayor Herb Pond urged residents to keep their cool.
People jammed stores and gas stations in an effort to stock up on essentials, but Mr. Pond said merchants are assuring residents there's no reason for panic.
"We do need to be psychologically prepared for the road being unavailable for the next week perhaps," he said.
With a report from Canadian Press