What is a freshet?
A freshet refers to the “spring run-off”. A freshet begins when the snow pack in the mountains begins to melt. It usually begins around the end of April or beginning of May.
The official definition is a:
1. stream of fresh water
2. a flood or overflowing of a stream caused by heavy rains or melted snow; a sudden inundation.
What is the chance of a major flood?
It is impossible to know in advance how high water levels will rise. The severity of flooding, and whether or not significant flooding occurs on major river systems, will depend primarily on the weather during snowmelt in May and June, and when and how rapidly snowmelt occurs. While the most likely development is prolonged high water levels flooding in low lying areas outside of dikes, the high snowpack makes more serious flooding a possibility we must prepare for.
When will the flood hit?
There is no confirmation of a flood as there is no way of knowing when water levels will peak. But river levels will likely not rise suddenly. We will have warning of high water flows several days in advance. We will continue to monitor water levels constantly and keep the public informed through the media.
Am I at risk of flooding?
Port Coquitlam has two flood plains – the Fraser/Pitt River zone and Coquitlam River zone. View the Flood Plain Map (PDF)
My property is not in the flood plain; will it be affected?
Although some properties are not within the potential flood plain, they could be indirectly impacted by road closures and/or cancellation of utilities. Utilities like electricity, gas and phone networks will likely be shut off in flooded areas by service providers. Some properties may fall within the same grid as the flooded areas, which would result in a lack of services for you as well. Please contact your utility providers for further information.
What should people do to minimize damage to their homes if they are going to be away during the freshet?
Although the risk of a major flood occurring in any given year is relatively low, the possibility does exist. Because the snow pack in the mountains is higher than normal, the risk of flooding has increased. Residents must judge for themselves the threat to their property in the event of a flood and take what measures they deem necessary.
Residents are advised to obtain Provincial River Forecast Centre information.
What has the City done to prepare for the annual freshet?
The City has been preparing for the freshet for several months. Emergency contingency plans are in place and departments are engaged and on standby. In recent years, the City has completed a number of diking system upgrades to prepare for Fraser River freshets. In addition to large capital projects, the City also completes numerous inspection maintenance activities to ensure the diking system is maintained.
In 2007, the City raised the dikes in the community and is proactively taking steps to prepare for the safety of its residents and local businesses should flooding occur. Our flood response plan includes:
- Preparing and disseminating flooding information for the public;
- Liaising with other government and utilities organizations;
- Developing contingency plans;
- Patrolling and maintaining our City’s dikes and pump stations;
- Monitoring weather forecasts and river levels daily; and
- Developing an evacuation plan.
My home is always flooded when we have high water. What should I do to prepare?
There is an excellent brochure put out by Emergency Management BC which gives some useful tips. Visit Emergency Management BC or stop into the City Hall to obtain a copy.
Does insurance cover flooding and costs of evacuating?
It is important to contact your insurance provider to confirm if flooding and the costs of evacuating are included in your insurance policy. Business continuity insurance may be available.
How much notice will residents and businesses have that their area is going to flood?
While the Ministry of Environment can measure the snowpack and compare it to previous flooding events, exact forecasting of a flood is not possible at this time. Similarly, we cannot forecast with any certainty, at this time, whether flooding will occur and whether it will be necessary to evacuate your business premises. Weather patterns and forecasts will be the main indicator of the river’s water levels. City staff monitors the weather patterns and the water levels at the Mission Gauge daily.
How do I get sandbags?
Sandbags can be useful in some situations, but not in others. Individuals are best equipped to determine where they can be best used.
If you require sandbags or other supplies specific to your needs, please contact the various suppliers in our area. The City has a limited supply of sandbags for residents and businesses in high-risk areas (outside the dikes). Contact Public Works at 604.927.5496 for information. It will be your responsibility to fill and lay the sandbags.
How will I know if I have to evacuate my home?
There is no immediate danger of severe flooding or evacuations. Listen to local radio stations for regular updates on the flood risk. If evacuations are necessary, the public will be notified via the media and possibly by personal contact. If you live in an area that has flooding in the past, or are not sure, you should listen to your local radio station regularly for flood updates.
How many people will be evacuated? Will they get a warning and have time to evacuate?
If it appears we may have to evacuate homes, authorities will notify the public to prepare for evacuation and monitor their local radio for more information. If an actual evacuation order is issued, the public will be informed through the media and, if possible personal contact.
Can I take my pet with me if I am evacuated?
Pets are not allowed in emergency reception centres. If you live in a low lying area, you should make arrangements with friends or family to care for your pet in case of evacuation.
Will flooding cut major transportation routes? How will I get to work/school if roads are closed?
With anticipated water levels, no major access roads should be affected. If we experience extreme water levels, some roads may be closed. Monitor local radio stations for information on any threatened road closures.
Will utilities continue to function during a flood?
Utilities are also preparing for potential flooding. Monitor the media for more information on utility services.
What will happen to the sewer systems if there is a flood?
Metro Vancouver’s McLean Sanitary Pump Station, located on McLean Avenue near Pitt River Road, collects sewage from all parts of Port Coquitlam and pumps the sewage by trunk force mains/sewer mains through Coquitlam and New Westminster to the Annacis Sewage Treatment Plant. If the dikes are breached by flood waters in Port Coquitlam, the sewer lines in the flooded areas would have to be blocked off to prevent flood waters from overloading the trunk sanitary sewer mains and pump stations, thus still providing sewage collection services to areas in Port Coquitlam which are not flooded. Sanitary sewer service will not be available in flooded areas.
Would our water supply be affected in any way?
The City of Port Coquitlam obtains bulk water supply, through municipal water line connections, from Metro Vancouver high-pressure trunk watermains located along Lougheed Highway. In the event of flooding, Metro Vancouver plans to keep the trunk high-pressure watermains operational and the City plans to keep the local distribution watermains operational, even in flooded areas. If however, there are watermain breaks in the flooded areas, the water supply will have to be shut off to the flooded areas, in order to prevent water pressure loss in the water distribution system. By isolating the areas with broken watermains, water pressure can be maintained in areas in Port Coquitlam that are not flooded.
My insurance agent says I am not covered against flood damage. Who will pay for the damage to my property?
The provincial Disaster Financial Assistance Program is designed to help people cope with the cost of necessary repairs in the event of a natural disaster such as a flood.
Why was construction of my home in the flood plain permitted?
Settlement patterns throughout BC were established along major transportation routes and on fertile agricultural lands on the Lower Fraser floodplain.
Since 1948 over $200 M in today’s dollars has been spent on constructing, improving and maintaining some 250 km of dike and other earthworks to protect communities throughout BC on the floodplain. While much of Port Coquitlam’s residential population is concentrated in areas outside of the flood plain, residential development is permitted in the flood plain, as it is throughout BC, subject to construction regulations. Generally, the underside of the lowest habitable floor must be constructed to flood construction level, which ranges from 5.33 to 1.88 m geodetric depending where in the flood plain you are.
Recent changes in legislation now require the registration of a flood protection covenant on title.
In the event of a flood, how long would it be before the water recedes?
The exact time frame and level of high water is entirely dependent on weather patterns. A rapid heating pattern would result in higher water levels over a shorter duration, and a cooler pattern in lower water levels over a longer duration.
Port Coquitlam Emergency Preparedness Office
Location and Mailing Address
#1 Fire Hall
1725 Broadway Street
Port Coquitlam BC
Business Hours: 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, Monday to Friday (excluding statutory holidays)