The atmospheric river that passed over Sooke on Monday, November 15, initially cut Sooke off as Sooke Rd (BC Highway 14) and East Sooke Road were both closed as a result of flooding. Over 30,000 BC Hydro customers in the Port Renfrew to WestShore region were without power for over eight hours.
The residual impact is also traffic related. In Sooke, expect to see increased traffic through town (which means increased traffic congestion) as those who normally drive over the Malahat seek out the Circle Route (WestShore to Sooke to Port Renfrew to Cowichan) as an alternative. We have heard reports of significant road damage between Sooke and Port Renfrew, so this can also present challenging driving for those on the Circle Route.
BC Highway 1 going over the Malahat will be closed for the next few nights, with daytime traffic reduced to single lane alternating traffic. Feeder routes will also impact those commuting through WestShore. The WestShore Parkway was at a near-standstill in the early morning on Wednesday, Nov 17, as drivers wait for the northbound Hwy 1 (over the Malahat) to open from the overnight closure.
While Sooke struggles with road conditions and traffic congestion (compounded by ongoing road work on Church and Otter Point Roads), communities in the interior of British Columbia have been much more significantly impacted with critical infrastructure damage from landslides to floods to sewer damage (in Merritt, it resulted in an entire town being evacuated).
In response to the recent flooding and damage to transportation infrastructure across British Columbia, Fiona Famulak, President and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce, released the following statement:
“The safety of people is always the top priority and I want to express my support and appreciation for the thousands of emergency personnel and volunteers who are working around the clock to rescue and provide assistance to people who have been affected by the recent weather event.
“In the last 48 hours, we have lost all major transportation routes connecting the Interior of our province with the Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland. We are an interconnected province and rely on our ability to move goods to markets, within the province, domestically, and internationally. The impacts on the economy are therefore going to be significant.
“As we move from response to recovery, we cannot afford to be complacent or delay. We need our governments to take urgent action to dedicate the resources required to repair and replace the lost infrastructure and re-open our trade corridors as soon as possible. At a time when businesses are struggling with the impacts of the pandemic, the timing of this event, while unpredictable, is even more concerning. An immediate, coordinated and multi-level response is required and the BC Chamber of Commerce is ready to assist in any way it can.
“The days and weeks ahead are going to be hard on small- and medium-sized businesses. However, I know they are resilient. The BC Chamber of Commerce is going to continue to advocate for the interests of the 36,000 businesses that are members of the provincial network and the hundreds of thousands of people they employ. Throughout the pandemic, we have seen how strong our business community is and I know we will persevere and come out stronger.”
Chambers of Commerce, including the Sooke Region Chamber and the BC Chamber, will continue their work to support entrepreneurs, business owners, and residents in our communities.