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BC residents highway closed to US detour – but obstacles remain for some

Vancouver –

After days of being stranded by storm-related highways closing, a growing number of British Columbians are returning home by detouring through the US – although border rules could be baffling. for some people.

Travelers who have managed to weather the landslides, floods and flash floods affecting several major roads across BC have shared their success stories in Facebook groups, offering advice to those longing to return to their own bed.

That includes Kelowna’s roommates Jordan Boyd and Aaron Meikle, who were returning from a trip to Vancouver Island when a terrible storm hit. After learning Highway 1 was blocked on Monday, they rerouted to Highway 99 – only to be cut off again by a deadly landslide near Lillooet.

Boyd told CTV News: “We were stuck in a hotel in Pemberton for several days. “There were quite a few others stuck there, so we would all meet in the morning and evening to exchange information.”

Among the stranded tourists, both online and in such informal encounters, there has been much confusion and uncertainty about what will be needed to get through. While Canada Border Services has confirmed some pandemic-related entry requirements will be waived for BC travelers trying to make their way through Washington state, US officials have yet to make any changes. any such guarantee.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection told CTV News that normal border crossing rules “have not changed,” including the requirement for proof of vaccination for everyone 18 years of age and older.

“Individuals entering the United States must have Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative documentation, such as a valid passport, Trusted Traveler Program card, Advanced Driver’s License, or The Advanced Tribal Card as well as proof of approved COVID-19 vaccination,” USCBP spokesman Jason Givens said in an email.

That could be a tall order for dead BC residents who never thought they would need a passport or a Nexus card to travel between the Lower Mainland and the Interior.

But some have reported that it passed with less, including Boyd and Meikle. They have posted a series of TikTok videos documenting their journey in hopes of helping others stuck in similar circumstances.

Boyd said in their first video, which was recorded shortly after they crossed the border in Blaine, Wash.

The roommates told CTV News that they were not asked about their vaccination status and that both only had regular class 5 driver’s licenses. Their trip from Pemberton to Blaine, then Oroville to Kelowna, took a total of about 11.5 hours – more than twice as long as usual.

Joven Martinez Garcia completed a similar trip in the opposite direction, returning home to New Westminster from Osoyoos with his girlfriend and four-month-old son.

They also saw mixed messages on social media – but after days of waiting, they decided to take their chance.

“For me, it was a kind of despair. We just wanted to get the baby home and go back to work,” he said.

Garcia told CTV News that they were asked about their vaccination status and citizenship status upon entry to the US, but they had an otherwise easy experience. He noted that they were fortunate to have some identification for their child in the form of a medical card.

“Everything went really well, they just asked for our IDs,” he said. “I asked my mom to take a picture of our passports – I think it’s better to have extra documents just in case – and they didn’t even need it.”

Route from Pemberton, BC, to Kelowna, as suggested by Google Maps on November 19, 2021.

US Customs and Border Protection is adamant that a photo of a passport will not suffice, regardless of any social media posts.

“I believe there are some rumors out there that have a different status, but they are just rumours,” Givens told CTV News.

That means trying to cross the border into the US without proper paperwork is, at best, a gamble.

There are some exemptions for travelers stranded on the Canadian side. The CBSA says it can travel through the US to go home without being tested for COVID-19 before or after returning to Canada. They are also exempt from quarantine.

A CBSA spokesperson noted that those exemptions have been built into the regulations, allowing for certain requirements to be waived for people crossing the border returning from “performing day-to-day tasks.” which, due to geographical restrictions, required entry to the United States.”

Crews have been working hard for days to clear BC’s highways, but there has been extensive damage on some of the roads and it’s unclear how long it will take for them to reopen.

Even routes with limited capacity, such as a single rotating lane, may be subject to pending travel restrictions from the provincial government. The question of whether those restrictions would allow public access could be answered on Friday, when officials expect to share more details about their plans.

For now, Boyd, Meikle and Garcia all wish the best of luck to those still stranded on the left side of the province.

“For me, it was a terrible adventure,” Garcia said. “I just hope everyone gets home safely.”

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