Damage from B.C., Atlantic storms no easy fix, must be done quickly: experts

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Over the past two weeks, Canadians have observed that heavy rains can damage the country’s infrastructure, whether roads are washed away or damaged.

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Rain storms have affected livelihoods in British Columbia and Atlantic Canada, damaged highways and rail lines, cut off communities and disrupted major supply chain routes.

Experts say it is important to rebuild infrastructure such as roads as soon as possible, but with climate change threatening future severe weather events, it is not an easy solution.


“It’s basically like a new design—only you’re running with your hair on fire, trying to do it faster than you normally would,” said Keith Porter, chief of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction. Engineer.

“It might cost a bit more, but in light of the disaster, you might be willing to pay more for a faster build.”

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Unprecedented rainfall from atmospheric rivers in BC and the Maritimes has dropped hundreds of millimeters of rain – days that exceeded the days seen in an entire month in some areas.

Infrastructure repairs are underway in BC while the area prepares for another series of storms. The cost of flood damage from last week alone could make it the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history.

Three BC municipalities suffered heavy losses: Abbotsford, Merritt and Hope. Heavy rain and landslides caused extensive damage to the Coquihalla Highway between Hope and Merritt.

While officials had originally instructed commuters to use Highway 3 from Hope to Princeton as an alternative, that area faced a new washout on Monday afternoon and only required traffic in a single lane. been reduced.

Elsewhere, some roads have been reopened with warnings, but in no way repaired.

In Port-aux-Basques, NL, several roads are undergoing significant repairs, including the important Trans-Canada Highway, which has become nearly impassable due to rain-related damage.

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Although the water level has receded, the work has just started. Workers are bringing in materials and heavy equipment to build the new culvert, a structure found under the road used to channel the water.

“It’s not a 48-hour fix,” Transport and Infrastructure Minister Elvis Lovelace said on Wednesday.

“It’s a big storm, we know that, but our crews are prepared in the elements. It’s a challenging one, but we’re prepared for it, and hopefully with time, we can get the roads rolling and to a certain extent.” can be back to normal.”

Experts say that when it comes to repairing infrastructure after adverse weather events, timing is key.

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Glen Milner, engineering and climate risk lead at the Climate Risk Institute, told Granthshala News that once the affected area is deemed safe, engineers need to investigate what went wrong and how to fix it.

“Was it an underpinning culvert down the road, or was it just a matter of the system’s capacity being overwhelmed and causing material erosion?” he said.

“(It) is about knowing what’s causing the problem, but also recognizing that these things have far-reaching consequences on the supply chain and the economy.”

Once that’s done, the design for the fix can begin, Porter explained.

If engineers decide to lay the road in place, they need to reinforce the terrain and structure and find a contractor who has the resources to do the work.

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“You want the contractor to be able to get off the ground as quickly as possible, as soon as the design is done,” Porter said.

“Or maybe you even have the designer designing things in stages so that the contractor can build the first part even before you’re finished with the total design.”

While this work is being done, engineers can assess whether an alternative route is available for the movement of goods and people, Milner said.

For example, they may be local roads that are emergency routes, or sea routes to coastal communities that may use ships for transportation.

This is what is happening in Newfoundland. With the main highway to Port-aux-Basque closed, the Crown Corporation, which operates a ferry service from Nova Scotia to the city, said on Thursday it would temporarily resume crossings in eastern Newfoundland to Argentina so that people and supplies reach the province.

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While crews work to get repairs done quickly, they must also focus on how to improve the product, Milner said.

“We have to find out whether in these instances – when we are reacting and reacting to failure – is there an opportunity to learn and get us to a higher level?” he said.

“The whole process itself can be quite quick, but I think it’s important to stop and also think about the climate, what exactly caused this failure, and really look at the extreme weather event that caused it.” Happened.”

Porter echoed Milner’s comments, saying that engineers should design infrastructure to adapt to the climate “75 to 100 years from now.”

“If you look at what the climate will be like 75 to 100 years from now, that’s what you design, so this thing works 100 years from now and doesn’t wash out,” he said.

“If we think about it this way, we can invest today to make sure that our children and our grandchildren share the return of that investment on their own…

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