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Panic buying returns to Burnaby amid flood disaster supply woes

Trains and trucks aren't getting anywhere in many B.C. areas
Costco lineup
Customers wait outside a Costco in Burnaby in the early days of the pandemic.

People have started to panic buy some items once again in Burnaby due to supply chain concerns stemming from the B.C. flood disaster.

I have seen posts on social media about people doing this in such places at Kamloops, Abbotsford and Chilliwack, and so I dropped by a bunch of stores in Burnaby to talk with customers.

And, sure enough, people were stocking up on meats, toilet paper and more because they fear the worst is yet to come.

“I’m worried this is only going to get worse and stores will start running out,” said Tim, a customer at the Costco on Brighton Avenue. Tim had three buggies filled with items and being pushed by his wife and daughter. “I did the same thing when COVID-19 started because I don’t think our supply chains are well organized.”

At the Safeway in Kensington Plaza, Sarah told me she has a second freezer to keep all of the items she is stocking up on, but the timing is bad due to recent price hikes on a variety of goods, especially meat.

“It’s a really bad situation and I want to be prepared,” Sarah said.

The same thing happened throughout the first six months or so of the COVID-19 pandemic, as long lines formed with people especially worried about not being able to find toilet paper. Many stores had to limit how many rolls of toilet paper you could buy.

The concerns come as several B.C. highways are out of commission thanks to the flooding, including the Coquihalla – a major route for trucks delivering goods to stores.

Also, Canada's two largest railways expect it will take another couple of days before their main lines in southern British Columbia reopen after service was cut by torrential rain, rock slides and mudslides that caused at least one partial derailment.

The track outages are hampering the movement of goods to and from the country's largest port in Vancouver, at the same time as global supply chains are facing challenges that have led to shortages.

The Vancouver Fraser Port authority says both railways "have indicated that no rail traffic is currently able to travel from Kamloops to Vancouver."

Canadian National Railway Co. says it is experiencing mudslides and washouts near Yale, B.C. and one partial derailment on a CP-owned track.

CN chief operating officer Rob Reilly said heavy rain made the tracks impassable. 

"We've had the railroad out of service getting to Vancouver since Sunday afternoon. Quite frankly, we'll probably be out a couple more days," he told a transportation conference.

Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. says the company is experiencing a track outage north of Hope, B.C. that is affecting rail service in the region.

Marketing chief John Brooks said the railway's team is working to restore services along its busiest corridor that is a "pretty significant event."

"It basically has our main line shut down, frankly just about all land access shut down in that region," he told the conference.

"Certainly that western corridor is our life bread of the railroad so just about all commodities to some extent flow through that," Brooks said pointing to specifically to grain and potash.

  • With files from the Canadian Press