Historic Weather in British Columbia This Year: What Impact Does This Have on Road & Rail?

Weather can be one of the most frustrating impedances on the shipping industry. Bad weather conditions come out of nowhere, and there’s really nothing you can do for your logistics process except wait it out.

While some weather conditions can result in simple delays, other times it is much more serious. A couple years ago, a hurricane in Texas caused mass destruction to its coast and many of its cities requiring nearly $100 billion to repair. It is instances like these that create long-term bottlenecks in ground shipping practices. Currently, British Columbia is going through the impacts of severe road and rail damage that may take years to recover from.

Ground Transport Affected from British Columbia Weather

Last fall, British Columbia and surrounding southern areas of Canada were bombarded with storms for months on end. The never-ending weather catastrophe resulted in significant damage, but it wasn’t the storms themselves that caused it.

While the endless storms took their toll on the shipping industry, it was the combination of landslides, rainfall, floods, and aftermath of the storms that wreaked havoc on ground routes for shipping. Southern Canada, including British Columbia, is usually responsible for moving large volumes of freight via ground by either rail or road.

Damage Done

Vancouver was among some of the most heavily hit cities in the Canadian province, experiencing a total of over 20 inches of rainfall last fall. However, the nearby city of Abbotsford exceeded this, coming in at 32 inches of rainfall from September through November. Both cities were badly damaged as a result of flooding.

Due to the rainfall, flooding, and excess runoff to surrounding areas, Highway 1, or the Trans-Canada Highway, was destroyed in several locations throughout the Fraser Valley. Between Fraser Canyon and Merritt was also completely inoperable. Infrastructure was destroyed and littered the road along Highway 5. Additionally, Highway 99 was entirely wiped out just north of Whistler.

It is estimated that billions of dollars of damage have been done to the roads, buildings, and other infrastructure in all surrounding areas.

Every industry that shipped through southern Canada near British Columbia was affected by the weather disaster, but it more severely harmed carriers that could not pivot due to specialized equipment.  This included the lumber industry, where several major carriers had to drop backhaul scenarios just to make sure they could finish key head-haul freight movements between southern British Columbia and the U.S. border.

Traffic Redirects

Due to the destroyed roads and rails, traffic was largely redirected to Highway 3, which was mostly unaffected by the weather and subsequent flooding. However, the highway was nowhere large enough to accommodate the increases in residential and shipping activity.

Eight-hour commutes along the highway were doubled due to increased traffic and congestion. While improvements have been made to Highway 3 and surrounding affected roads, commute times are still averaging around 11 hours on the highway as of January.

Efforts to repair affected highways and infrastructure are obviously being deployed with full force, but even the most liberal estimates put the expected finish line somewhere in 2023. Rail tracks must be rebuilt in several locations; debris cleared for hundreds of miles; roads ripped up and replaced entirely; and there are several sections that require more waiting as water continues to run out of the area.

If you have felt the impact of this historic weather that unfolded in British Columbia or are curious to see how this affects future shipment activity in the region, please reach out to one of our team members.

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