Photo: Josefina Di Battista / Unsplash

British Columbia is working to rebuild and repair highways, bridges and rail lines washed out by floodwaters after an “atmospheric river” hit southern B.C. on November 14, bringing record rainfall that caused flooding and triggered mudslides across the region.

The snarled supply lines have resulted in panic buying and gasoline rationing, while building material delays are expected to impact residential construction projects across the province.

“A disruption to transportation infrastructure of this magnitude will only exacerbate a supply chain that is already strained due to challenges with global shipping,” Mark Sakai, advocacy project manager for the British Columbia Real Estate Association, told Livabl.

Greater Vancouver is already experiencing a housing supply shortage, as the number of active listings dropped from 9,728 at the end of September to 8,492 by the end of October. Those numbers could drop further in the coming months due to construction delays and increased building costs.

“Obviously, anything that slows the rate of new supply entering the housing market is likely to cause negative impacts,” Sakai said. “Add to this the increased demand for building materials for repair and restoration of flood-damaged homes and other structures, and there could be a cost impact for many construction inputs.”

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Two roadways connecting the Lower Mainland to B.C.’s interior re-opened over the weekend. Highway 7 connecting to Highway 3 reopened Friday, while Highway 99 connecting to Highway 97 opened on Saturday. However, the Coquihalla Highway, a key transportation corridor linking the Lower Mainland with the rest of Canada, is expected to take months to repair.

Meanwhile, the country’s two largest railway services — Canadian Pacific Railway (CP Rail) and Canadian National Railway (CN Rail) — saw rail lines damaged by landslides and washouts, halting the movement of goods between Canada’s biggest port in Vancouver and B.C.’s Okanagan Valley region.

CP Rail is expecting to resume operations Tuesday night, while CN Rail is planning to restart limited service on Wednesday.

“Cutting off access to the rest of Canada from the nation’s largest port is not good,” Sakai said. “As well, there are many key shipments moving from east to west that would be needed in Vancouver for home construction that would also be impacted by flood damage.”

Atmospheric rivers — also known as moist conveyer belts — are regions in the atmosphere that transport water vapour outside of the tropics. When these rivers make landfall, they release the vapour as rain or snow.

As recovery efforts continue and evacuees return home to some of the hardest-hit areas, Environment Canada is warning about more rain later this week.

Starting Thursday, an atmospheric river is forecast to dump up to 70 millimetres of rain in the Fraser Valley and as much as 100 millimetres in the North Shore mountains. While rainfall isn’t expected to match the totals from earlier in the month, there are concerns that it could slow recovery efforts.

“Getting corridors open from the Lower Mainland has been and continues to be our highest priority to make sure that supply chains can be maintained,” said Rob Fleming, B.C.’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, in a statement. “We know how vitally important it is to open routes and to have supply chains moving. That is our focus.”

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