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Pacific Northwest Suffers Unprecedented Floods

November 19, 2021

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What's happening?

Heavy rainfall battered the Pacific Northwest this week, causing a state of emergency in British Columbia as regions flooded severely. The Canadian military has been deployed to support relocation and search and rescue efforts.

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Between November 14–15, some areas saw as much as 600mm of rain caused by an atmospheric river—a concentrated moisture stream from the tropics, which turns into rain as it cools over mountains.

The flooding was exacerbated by clearcut logging and wildfire damage, which weakens ground stability and causes landslides that quickly overwhelm waterways.

The catastrophe aligns with climate change predictions for hotter summers and wetter winters in the area. According to Environment Canada, there has already been an unusually high number of atmospheric rivers this season. The event comes months after a record heatwave earlier this summer, which caused destructive wildfires and almost 600 heat-related deaths.

What's the impact?

In BC, 18,000 people have been displaced and one death has been confirmed so far. The flooding damaged major transportation infrastructure and caused Canada’s largest port in Vancouver to suspend rail access. This is interrupting supply chains and will likely cause consumer goods shortages. 

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The Trans Mountain pipeline has temporarily closed, which could inflate fuel prices. Thousands of farms have also been damaged, which will take a toll in southern-BC regions that rely heavily on agriculture for their livelihoods. The incident is expected to be Canada’s most expensive natural disaster in 2021.

What can you do?

Natural disasters like these will become more common as climate change effects escalate. Governments and emergency response teams, as well as organizations affected by supply chain disruptions, need to stay informed during natural disasters so they can assess damages and respond appropriately.

During a crisis, social media is often the earliest and most accurate source of ground-truth information. Public social data can provide early warning indicators and real-time updates, such as:

  • Where the disaster is, how many people need support, and how severe the damage is
  • Where it is safe to evacuate people and situate emergency response services
  • Whether supply chains critical to your operations or economy have been affected

This information is easily accessible through open-source intelligence (OSINT) tools like the Echosec Systems Platform. To learn more about OSINT and disaster recovery, book some time with our team.