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High tides flood Squamish's downtown core

A torrential rainstorm has raised the district's water levels to unusual heights.

When John Buchanan got up this morning, he intended to do some storm watching and take pictures of the king tide around the yacht club.

However, at around 8:45 a.m., he noticed something unusual — water was flowing over from the small boat harbour and making its way down to Cleveland Avenue.

That’s when he knew something had to be done.

“I've never seen it go down to Cleveland Avenue like that,” said Buchanan. “It started picking up, and I grew up downtown, so I know where this water is going to head and the damage it's going to do.”

As a result, he decided to call it in.

“I'm not seeing any emergency response here. And I thought, ‘You know what, I'm just gonna put my camera down here for a second. And so I phoned them,’” Buchanan said.

He recalled with a laugh that he bumped into an officer that told him they initially thought the call was a hoax, as there hadn’t been any other calls of that nature.

But it’s far from a prank.

As of late morning Tuesday, the RCMP are asking people to stay away from flooded downtown areas while crews work.

Local meteorologist Jason Ross said the situation is “like the perfect storm.”

"The worst case scenario is happening this morning with a deep, low-pressure system off the coast, high water levels in the rivers and streams flowing into Howe Sound on top of the high tide,” Ross said.

An onslaught of rain appears to have caused water from the Mamquam Blind Channel to spill into the downtown core at Cleveland and Main.

This morning, police erected a blockade, barring cars from entering the section of Main Street between Cleveland and 2nd, as it had flooded over. A house on that street appears to have several inches of water submerging its ground level.

When the Squamish Chief was at the scene, the water on the street had reached the bumpers of several parked vehicles and was about one or two inches from becoming level with the sidewalk right where the Fox and Oak doughnut shop resides.

Video footage from passersby showed that at one point, the current had submerged the sidewalk, causing water to seep into The Main condo complex.

At the Yacht Club in the late morning of Dec. 27, the boat ramp that usually leads down to the vessels was even — normally, it inclines downward, something which was not lost on residents.

Ken Taylor, a local resident who frequently takes walks to the club, said it’s the first time he’s seen water levels this high before.

During previous high tides, it’s still possible to look down at the vessels, he said.

Further north, Cathryn Atkinson, who lives in the Sirocco 3 building, said she’s concerned about the lack of diking in the area.

The District has had signage in the area saying it intends to build the Xwu'nekw Park Sea Dike, right by the canoe shelter.

However, this sign has been up for some time, yet no work has been done, she said.

“It seems like people have been sitting on their butts crossing their fingers that nothing would happen,” said Atkinson.

“There is nothing in this space, which is maybe a quarter of a kilometre long, that would stop any water from entering downtown. And I've watched it in the past and thought, ‘Wow, that's really high. I wonder when they're going to start the work.’’”

Back in 2019, District council had a discussion with staff, who reported that work on the project was intended to begin in the near future.

The 2023 budget has set aside $11.6 million for the project.

The Squamish Chief has asked the District of Squamish about the hold-up and will update this story when we get a response.

In the meantime, the District issued a message in response to the floods.

"Road closures are in effect in Downtown Squamish. High tides have led to flooding from Victoria Street south to Cattermole Slough between Loggers Lane and Third Avenue and other areas downtown,” reads the notice on social media. “Public works crews are in the process of installing barricades to prevent public access. Please avoid the area until further notice.”

The municipality said sandbags are available at a self-serve station at the north end of Brennan Park Recreation Centre (Ball Field #5) Residents should bring a spade/shovel and help themselves. District shovels are available for use for those in need, and should be left behind for the next in line, the message said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the District provided another update.

The municipality announced on social media that downtown Squamish residents and business owners should anticipate an prepare for a potential repeat of today's flooding by using the self-serve sandbag station.

"Be prepared with a 72-hr emergency preparedness kit and consider making plans to stay with family or friends should further flooding occur," the post reads.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available. 

- Updated Dec. 27 at 4:37 p.m. to include an update to the District's message.

- Updated Dec. 27 at 2:21 p.m. to include more information about water levels around 2nd and Cleveland.



Video credit: John Buchanan.

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