The Sumas Prairie is flooding and on an emergency evacuation alert as search crews attempt to rescue those who remain. (City of Abbotsford)

The Sumas Prairie is flooding and on an emergency evacuation alert as search crews attempt to rescue those who remain. (City of Abbotsford)

Grocery corporations responding to supply challenges posed by Lower Mainland flooding

Loblaws says it is working to set up deliveries to B.C. Interior from Alberta distribution centres

As photos of empty grocery store shelves circulate on social media, politicians are urging people not to “panic-buy” goods and produce as concerns about the stability of the supply chain grow due to flooding in the Lower Mainland.

“Please do not hoard items,” pleaded B.C. Premier John Horgan, during a news conference on Nov. 17. “What you need, your neighbours need as well. We are confident that we can restore our supply chains in a quick and orderly manner provided we all act as we have been acting over the past two years.”

Flooding in the Sumas prairie region near Abbotsford has all but cut off Metro Vancouver from the rest of the province, both through rail lines and the Trans Canada Highway, which was submerged east of Abbotsford by flooding . However, Highway 7 — which runs from Hope along the north side of the Fraser River into Metro Vancouver — reopened only to essential traffic on Thursday after mudslides were cleared.

“We’re working diligently to assess the damage and make sure that we can get those supply roads back in shape as quickly as possible,” said Horgan, before announcing a provincial state of emergency. “But the conditions are severe and it’s essential that we work on these corridors in a way that makes safety our highest priority. And this means essential and emergency access will be limited in the days ahead. Already strained supply lines are at risk of greater disruption.”

In Cranbrook, representatives at various grocery locations declined to comment on potential supply chain issues at local stores, passing on questions from the Townsman to out-of-town corporate media and public relations departments.

“Our supply chain and store teams are responding to the spikes in volume and getting the most important items back on the shelf as quickly as possible across the province,” reads a statement issued by Loblaws, which operates the Real Canadian Superstore chain. “In the meantime, we are urging customers to only purchase what they need.

“We are also working to set up deliveries to the BC Interior from our Alberta distribution centres to ensure we can continue to serve our communities in their time of need.”

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison also raised concerns about the potential impacts to the supply chain for goods moving into and out of British Columbia. For example, consistent movement of goods being shipped into — or out of — the Port of Vancouver is being affected by flooding impacts to highways and rail lines.

On Friday, Nov. 19, CP Rail said rail service between Vancouver and Kamloops should be operational in the next few days, and that 20 sections of track along that route have already been repaired.

“The port of Vancouver is the fourth-largest port in North America and moves $550 million in cargo each day,” Morrison said, in a statement. “With Kootenay-Columbia now cut off from Vancouver, due to flooding that resulted in highway and rail line closures, the movement of goods has come to a temporary standstill. Much of our hard goods supply comes through the port of Vancouver and therefore Canadians will, for a time, need to be reliant on other sources for these necessities.

“A non-partisan Federal approach to working with local providers, provincial and municipal governments as well as regional districts will be required to solve this issue and my office will be working diligently in that effort.”