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Whistler, Pemberton on flood alert

Heavy rain, melting snow swell waterways

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Whistler and Pemberton were on flood alert Wednesday as the heavy rains continued to fall with no lengthy reprieve in sight.

As of press time on Wednesday night there were no reports of homes being flooded but municipal staff in Whistler and Pemberton were on standby, with water pumps and sandbags at the ready.

After an extended period of clear, cold weather ended Sunday night temperatures in Whistler shot up from —14 to above freezing and brought more than 100 millimetres of rain from Monday to Wednesday. Whistler-Blackcomb closed all alpine lifts and the Creekside Gondola Wednesday.

"I’ve never seen anything like this at this time of year," Marilyn Manso of the Environment Canada weather station in Whistler said Wednesday. "Certainly this could be something that happens around September, October but not around this time of year."

About 20 mm of rain fell Monday but another 64 mm fell in a 24-hour period between Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. By Wednesday afternoon Whistler had received more than 100 mm in three days. Combined with the frozen ground the water was pooling on some streets and low lying areas creating small lakes. Creeks and stream in the area were also extremely high.

Several Whistler businesses, including Whistler-Blackcomb, advised staff who live in Pemberton to return home Wednesday out of fear Highway 99 might be closed. As of Wednesday afternoon the highway remained open, however, RCMP advised that some sections between Whistler and Pemberton were covered by large puddles.

In Pemberton, Lillooet Lake Road was closed due to extremely hazardous road conditions. Other roads in the Pemberton area were open as of Wednesday afternoon but dykes were being monitored.

The Village of Pemberton and Whistler/Pemberton RCMP set up an emergency information number Wednesday: 604-894-6135. Residents are encouraged to phone the number for up to date information and to report any flood-related concerns.

In Pemberton, village staff went door knocking on Tuesday to put some residents on evacuation alert as the rain continued with more forecasted for the weekend.

"I’ve got experience with this now," said Pemberton Mayor Elinor Warner referring to the flood of October 2003 which forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents when rivers burst their banks after monsoon-like rain.

"We are activating our emergency plan in preparedness and sending out notices to residents in areas that could be affected," said Warner.

"We’re worried about the areas around Pemberton Creek and One Mile Lake…the water’s come up and there’s been some mud on the road mixed with ice."

Anna Helmer, whose family farm is located near the Ryan River in Pemberton, said Wednesday she saw some "big ice jams" on the river breaking up.

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