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Canada issues weather ‘red alert’ for catastrophic flooding in British Columbia

Flooding in British Columbia on Nov. 15, 2021. (Photo Provided/BC Hydro)

(CNN) — Environment Canada has issued its first “red alert” for British Columbia ahead of what officials are characterizing as a dangerous weather system expected to push more atmospheric rivers into the province.

“The red level is something new that we have not issued,” Armel Castellan, a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, told CNN Canadian affiliate CTV.

Earlier this month, British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province, experienced a catastrophic flooding event, forcing evacuations, damaging highways and infrastructure along the Fraser River Valley down to the US Border and disrupting shipping in Vancouver. On the heels of the deluge, more heavy rains are forecast in the form of three atmospheric rivers in one week.

“We are now in recovery mode, and we still have dangerous weather ahead. We have had one more atmospheric river yesterday,” Castellan said. “What is forecast for this weekend will be storm number two and again for next week, Tuesday and Wednesday, will be storm number three in a row.”

Castellan noted the storms are coming back-to-back-to-back with very little time in between.

“So, imagine that we’ve had an extraordinarily wet fall, the soil is, the landscape is completely saturated. Any extra moisture runs down much more easily and quicker,” he said.

“We also have had snow,” he said. “So, in those middle elevations, there is snow to melt, and that is precisely what these next couple of storms are going to do. We are going to be adding snow melt to the rainwater and creating a lot of runoff.”

Castellan warned the new weather systems will put warm air into exceedingly high elevations, with heating in the mountains up to 3,000 meters, if not higher.

The British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is proactively closing some sections of highways and asking drivers to avoid nonessential travel ahead of another round of heavy forecast rains.

“The highway infrastructure in these areas is extremely vulnerable following recent storms, and more heavy rain in the forecast poses an additional risk,” the ministry said in a release.