(Bloomberg) -- Days of heavy rain have closed major highways and blocked railroad tracks near Vancouver, cutting off traffic to Canada’s biggest port and putting another kink in the North American supply chain.
The rain caused flooding and mudslides across the Trans-Canada Highway and tracks belonging to the country’s two major railways. In some places, other major roads have been washed away.
Hundreds of truckers are awaiting highway repairs. Nearly 1,000 rail cars carrying grain are idled in the Vancouver corridor, according to estimates from Ag Transport Coalition. Vancouver container terminals reopened after briefly closing on Monday due to high winds.
It’s the second time in less than five months that Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. and Canadian National Railway Co. have simultaneously had tracks damaged by extreme weather; they were affected by wildfires in the summer. But this time, alternatives such as major highways are also affected, raising concerns about the movement of goods ahead of the winter holiday season, especially if it takes more than a few days to clear the routes.
There is enough grain at port terminal elevators to keep exports moving for a “few days and perhaps a week,” said Mark Hemmes, president of Quorum Corp., a grain transportation monitoring company in Edmonton, Alberta. “After that, it’s about the wait.”
Port terminals rely largely on railways to deliver containers to load on ships, as well as to transport imported and exported goods. “When the cycle of inbound rail cars stops, that’s when congestion starts to build at the port terminals,” Hemmes said.
For trucks, every route from the port into the interior of British Columbia is closed, though goods can get out of Vancouver by some alternative routes, Dave Earle, chief executive officer of the B.C. Trucking Association, said in a phone interview.
“There’s going to be disruption. We just don’t know how much for how long. It’s critical that these repairs are done without delay,” Earle said, adding that roughly two-thirds of containers in B.C. are transported by rail.
Canadian Pacific said its track remains closed near Hope, British Columbia, which is about 150 kilometers (93 miles) east of Vancouver. Canadian National said multiple mudslides and washouts have damaged tracks and that repairs are progressing, but that outbound and inbound traffic in Vancouver is still affected.
The flooding is also disrupting energy infrastructure. Enbridge Inc. shut a segment of the Westcoast Pipeline natural gas conduit as a precautionary measure in the Coquihalla River valley early Tuesday due to heavy rain and increased river flow, spokesman Jesse Semko said by email.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said they had recovered the body of one woman trapped in a mudslide near the town of Lillooet, and search-and-rescue efforts were continuing. David MacKenzie, manager of Pemberton District Search and Rescue, confirmed the fatality, and said seven vehicles were found caught in the slide but empty.
“Our team was able to locate seven vehicles caught in the slide and some eye witnesses that had been interviewed had said there could be several,” MacKenzie said.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.