Heavy rain leads to state of emergency in Calgary, fears of flooding in BC

A house on Peguis First Nation with a Tiger Dam around it for the Fisher River that overflows north of Winnipeg on May 15.JOHN WOODS/The Canadian Press

Calgary declared a state of emergency on Monday as torrential rains were predicted to hit southern Alberta with more than a month’s worth of rain in just three days, but the city’s mayor said officials did not expect a repeat of the deadly floods in 2013.

Having the same wet weather also alerted neighboring British Columbia less than a year after historic amounts of rain in November caused flooding and debris shifts. Several areas of southeastern BC were under flood monitoring or warnings, while there was an evacuation alert in the community of Six Mile, near Nelson, BC

Forecasts in both provinces predict the worst would be over by the middle of the week.

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she has issued a state of emergency “out of extreme caution”. Should the situation worsen, the statement will give experts access to properties to protect critical infrastructure. She said the order would allow firefighters and police to go door-to-door informing residents of evacuation orders. Neither measure is necessary at this time.

“I realize this may cause some fear, some fear for Calgarians, especially those who experienced this in 2013,” Ms Gondek said. “I can tell you you are in good hands.”

According to Environment Canada, which has issued rain warnings for between 75 and 150 millimeters of rain in areas such as Banff, Calgary and Rocky Mountain House, Alta, rain is expected in southern Alberta through Wednesday.

Water expert Dr. Alain Pietroniro, a professor at the University of Calgary, said the expected rainfall is significant but unlikely to match the major floods in 2013 when more than 100,000 Albertans were displaced.

Prof. dr. Pietroniro said precipitation in the high mountains is expected to fall as snow, rather than rain, which “will slow things down”. The forecast also calls for less rainfall compared to 2013 levels and he said cities are better prepared.

“Things can change. You never quite know with these events, but for now it won’t be a big event,” he said. “We just have to keep a very close eye on the weather.”

The 2013 event caused $5 billion in damage and was the costliest flood in Canadian history at the time. The flood destroyed thousands of homes and killed five people, including one in Calgary and four others elsewhere in the region.

The county later approved a reservoir in Springbank, Alta., 15 miles west of the city, that could divert water from the Elbow River, but the $432 million project suffered multiple delays and construction didn’t begin until last month.

Officials in Calgary said the reservoirs have been emptied in preparation for extended rainfall. Residents have been warned about possible high flow rates on the Bow and Elbow Rivers.

The Alberta Department of the Environment has issued a flood warning on the Bow River between Banff and Exshaw, Alta. The department anticipates effects on roads, parks and other infrastructure.

In BC, the county’s River Forecast Center on Monday upgraded a flood watch for the Elk River, near Fernie, BC, in the southeastern region of Kootenay, to a flood warning, indicating that melting snow and unstable weather could threaten the river. risk of a breakthrough are banks. In particular, it warned of flooding in the East Kootenay region.

“Given the uncertainty in the position of the weather pattern and the heaviest rainfall, it is possible that adjacent areas in West Kootenay and Upper Columbia also experience significant flows,” the center said in a statement.

The center also issued a flood watch on Monday for the Shuswap region, including its tributaries of the South Thompson River, and high-stream flow advisories for the Okanagan, Boundary and Similkameen Rivers in the southern interior. Previous flood watches for the North Thompson River and the Cariboo Mountains have been maintained.

Environment Canada has issued a rain warning for the Elk Valley, saying 50 to 80 millimeters of rain can be expected by the end of Tuesday, leading to flash flooding and water build-up on roads. The city of Fernie has activated its emergency operations center, closing trails and setting up sandbag stations for residents.

On Sunday, the Central Kootenay Regional District issued an evacuation warning for about 120 properties in the community of Six Mile, north of Nelson, BC

Officials in BC are on extra vigil since an atmospheric river dumped record rains in parts of the province in 2021. washing away the road network, devastating communities and crippling supply chains. The Globe and Mail previously estimated the cost of repairing what was lost at nearly $9 billion.

On Monday, Abbotsford City Council approved a flood mitigation project that, in the event of a flooding of the Nooksack River, the water would divert over the west side of Sumas Prairie and via a designated flood road to the Sumas and Fraser Rivers. The city will now work on the details of the plan and prepare a funding application with the county.

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