Closing system

Several Alberta rivers, streams subject to flood advisories

Near Calgary, sections of the Bow, Elbow, Highwood and Fish Creek rivers are under flood watch

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The City of Calgary has declared a local state of emergency in response to a predicted downpour of rain which increases the risk of local flooding.

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Heavy rains are expected to melt snowpack from the mountains higher than usual, increasing flows and water levels in several rivers, prompting the province to issue several flood advisories in southern and central Alberta. Environment Canada issued a rain warning on Sunday, estimating that Calgary and nearby mountainous regions will see 75 to 125 millimeters of rain by Wednesday morning, with localized amounts of up to 150 mm.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the city is making the statement out of an abundance of caution, primarily so police and firefighters can go door-to-door to notify people in the event of an evacuation order. It will also allow the city’s water utility crews access to properties as needed to protect infrastructure and give the administration some “buying flexibility.” The declaration will expire after 14 days.

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“We’ve been through two years of uncertainty and unpredictability where Calgarians have been incredibly patient, compassionate and kind to one another,” Gondek said at a press conference Monday afternoon.

“I must ask you again for your kindness and patience.”

As the rhetoric returns to the devastating 2013 floods that caused an estimated $6 billion in damage and killed at least five people, Gondek assured residents that the river level is currently “significantly lower what we saw in 2013”.

The city began preparing flood mitigation efforts ahead of the downpour on Sunday, lowering water levels in reservoirs above the Bow River and Glenmore Reservoir to make way for anticipated floodwaters among several other precautions.

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Now the city plans to install a temporary berm on Memorial Drive. The road will be closed between the 3rd Street and Center Street bridges beginning at midnight Tuesday.

The city said the greatest risk of flooding was in the communities of Bowness and Sunnyside along the Bow River. River flow is expected to peak Wednesday or Thursday in the early afternoon.

“I want to emphasize that even though the flows are not expected to be as high as they were in 2013…they are high,” Calgary Water Resources Manager Francois Bouchart said.

Since 2013, the city has made significant investments in flood prevention, including a downtown flood barrier crossing the heart of the city from the Peace Bridge to the Reconciliation Bridge. The city said the improvements have reduced Calgary’s flood risk by 55% and potential flood damage by $90 million annually.

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In a separate press conference Monday afternoon, Parks and Environment Minister Jason Nixon said it was a tense time for many Albertans, especially those affected by the 2013 floods. He said the government is much more confident in Alberta’s ability to handle major weather events like this thanks to significant investments over the past 10 years. Nixon said the province has been in contact with the City of Calgary as well as surrounding rural municipalities about preparations for the rains.

“A recurring theme in every emergency Alberta has faced is: We’re in this together, we’ll work together,” he said. “We are resilient people and we support our neighbours.”

Calgary’s River Cafe, located along the Bow River in Prince’s Island Park, is proactively closing its shop and moving its perishables and wine out of the restaurant as river levels rise. Owner Sal Howell said his cafe was damaged by floods in 2005 and 2013 and he was taking no risks this year.

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“After two devastating floods, we can’t just wait and see what happens,” Howell said, adding staff will be reassessing the situation throughout the week. “Prince’s Island Park is in the floodway. The restaurant everyone knows to dine at is quite high up, but our lower level is like a basement, so we’re really vulnerable to it.

Flood advisory

The province has issued flood advisories for several rivers and streams. Alberta’s River Forecast Center has issued flood warnings for the Bow River near Banff, Canmore and Exshaw, and for areas of the Little Red Deer River and Red Deer River southwest of Red Deer . Sections of the Bow and Elbow Rivers near Calgary are under flood watch, as are the Highwood River and Fish Creek in High Level and Foothills County. Several Highwood tributaries in the area are under high flow advisory.

The Bow is expected to be hardest hit in the Banff and Canmore area with around 90 to 150mm of rain in total, according to river forecasters. The Highwood River, which runs through High River, is expected to receive between 100 and 130 mm.

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For the Bow River Basin, the River Forecast Center said water level rises of one to two meters are possible, as well as seepage and basement flooding. Bend could experience minor flooding out of the bank upstream of Glenmore Reservoir and trails could be impacted downstream. Water is approaching the lower deck of the Center Street Bridge at High Level, but flows are expected to remain within the levee system.

The Town of Banff says trails near the river will be closed and sandbags are being prepared. He encourages residents to sign up for his emergency alert system at The Town of Canmore says more than 50mm of rain will cause flooding issues in low-lying areas and continues to monitor the situation. The city closed the trail under the Bow River Bridge in Canmore last week and further trail closures are possible. Currently, there are no active sandbags along the shorelines in either community.

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A sign warns that the flooded pathway under the 25th Avenue Bridge in Erlton has been closed as the Elbow River rises with steady rain in the forecast for Calgary on Monday, June 13, 2022.
A sign warns that the flooded pathway under the 25th Avenue Bridge in Erlton has been closed as the Elbow River rises with steady rain in the forecast for Calgary on Monday, June 13, 2022. Gavin Young/Postmedia

High River Mayor Craig Snodgrass said the city does not expect flood risk near 2013 levels, especially with infrastructure improvements and the city buying back some at-risk properties. since this event. Anticipating a less severe impact on Highwood than in 2013, Snodgrass said the city isn’t worried about the coming rain “but neither are we complacent.”

“We know very well what we’ve been through in the past and we’ll never take our eyes off this river, especially at this time of year,” Snodgrass said. “If you look at the river, the color of the river, the smell outside, all those things, it brings back a lot of memories for us.”

Still, Snodgrass said the city is confident in its ability to protect residents from another major flood.

“We are far from testing the true amount of what our infrastructure can support,” he said.

— With files by Jason Herring

[email protected]

Twitter: @michaelrdrguez

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