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‘Atmospheric rivers’ are the new hurricanes, rating system coming

B.C. expecting more rain this week as flood waters recede
Crews work through the night to clear landslide debris from B.C. highways after torrential rain known as an ‘atmospheric river,’ Nov. 15, 2021. (B.C. government photo)

A rating system for “atmospheric river” rainstorms, similar to categories for approaching hurricanes, could be in place starting in January, B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says.

The ratings are to be incorporated in Environment Canada weather reports once they are available, a practice already in use in the U.S.

“We are very pleased that the federal government is working with Environment Canada on a ranking system for the atmospheric rivers,” Farnworth said at an emergency management update Nov. 22. “I think that will assist us greatly in getting an understanding of exactly what the nature of what an atmospheric river is.

“It is a new term that I think most of us are now becoming familiar with, and they have a ranking system in the United States. That will allow us to, I think, prepare more effectively, and my expectation from what I’ve been told is that will be coming, looking to be implemented at the beginning of January 2022.”

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun spoke on Sunday about the unknowns involved in weather forecasting, with 80 to 100 mm of rain expected between Monday and Thursday. Dike repairs and water diversion to the Fraser River have proceeded to recover from widespread flooding on Sumas Prairie.

“If it’s spread out over four days, I’m optimistic the system is currently working the way it’s supposed to,” Braun said.

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