Storm of the Century blocks Canada’s largest port, Idles Freight

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Traffic at Canada’s largest port has been cut short by what local authorities are calling the storm of the century, the latest snag to hit the North American supply chain.

Days of torrential rain hit British Columbia, triggering floods and landslides that blocked the tracks of the country’s two main railroads and washed away parts of its main east-west highway artery, the Trans-Canada Highway. .

This is the second time in less than five months that British Columbia – a major conduit to Asian markets and home to one of the busiest ports on the west coast – has been crippled by extreme weather: fires of forest and a record heat wave suffocated the region in the summer. This time, disruptions threaten the flow of goods before the peak winter holiday season.

The flooding cut train services to and from the Port of Vancouver and also closed all major road routes, the port said in a statement. It is not yet known when Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. and Canadian National Railway Co. will be able to reopen their lines, he said. Almost 1,000 railcars carrying grain are stranded in the Vancouver corridor, according to estimates by Ag Transport Coalition.

British Columbia Transportation Minister Rob Fleming called it “the worst weather storm of the century” at a press conference at the end of November 16. Highway 3, an older road that runs roughly along the U.S. border, could be the first to reopen, he said. , without providing a deadline. The Trans-Canada Highway and another major artery, known as Coquihalla, will take longer, he said, noting the dramatic images emerging from the area, including chunks of highway tumbling into rough waters. “The damage to infrastructure is significant there. “

“This is an extreme weather event,” said Mike Farnworth, Deputy Premier of British Columbia. “The impacts have been significantly greater than expected. “

About two-thirds of containers in British Columbia are transported by rail, said Dave Earle, CEO of the BC Trucking Association. “There are going to be disruptions,” he said by phone. “We just don’t know how much for how long. “

There is enough grain in the port terminal elevators to keep exports going for “a few days and maybe a week,” said Mark Hemmes, president of Quorum Corp., an Edmonton grain transportation monitoring company, in. Alberta. “After that, it’s the wait.

Port terminals rely heavily on railways to deliver containers to be loaded onto ships, as well as for the transport of imported and exported goods. “When the cycle of inbound cars stops, that’s when congestion starts to build up at port terminals,” Hemmes said.

Canadian Pacific said its runway remained closed near Hope, about 93 miles east of Vancouver. Canadian National said several mudslides and washouts have damaged the runways and repairs are progressing, but traffic leaving and entering Vancouver is still affected.

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Floods also disrupt energy infrastructure. Enbridge Inc. closed a segment of the Westcoast Pipeline, which carries gas from the interior to the Vancouver area, as a precautionary measure early Tuesday due to heavy rains and increased river flow, the river said. spokesperson Jesse Semko by email.

Some of the worst flooding has occurred in Merritt, where 7,000 residents were ordered to evacuate on November 15. The town is just 60 miles east of Lytton, which made headlines in June when it burned to the ground after registering the highest temperature on record. in Canada – 121 degrees Fahrenheit.

Earlier this week, some 275 people were transported by helicopter to safety after their vehicles became stranded on a highway between two landslides. So far, one death has been confirmed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

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