Calgary has declared a State of Local Emergency (SOLE) in response to recent rains and the potential for localized overbank flooding in the city.
Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Sue Henry said that weather forecasts aren’t improving and have increased to between 125mm and 150 millimetres in some areas.
That’s still below the 220 millimetres recorded during the 2013 flooding.
Henry said they expect the peak Bow River flow to be late Wednesday or early Thursday. In the meantime, they will be building a temporary berm on 3 Street NW and the Centre Street Bridge on Memorial Drive to protect homes. That area will be closed to traffic beginning at midnight, the city said.
“We are actively working to communicate with those residents that may be impacted by the water that we are expecting to see,” said Henry.
Henry said some residents in low-lying areas can expect basement seepage. She said if you have sump pumps, use them.
“At this point, river flows are not expected to cause widespread overbank flooding. However, there will be impacted communities as mentioned by the mayor,” Henry said.
The areas that are most likely to be affected are Bowness, Hillhurst and Sunnyside, the city said. They will be putting out a map of potentially affected areas so residents can prepare accordingly.
Water Services director Francois Bouchart said they’ve been tracking the system since last week. In that time it’s grown into a larger and larger event. Along with rainfall, they’re tracking flow rates that include potential snow melt and the freeze line (elevation where snow becomes rain).
“I do want to stress that while the flows are not being forecasted as being as significant as 2013, I do want to stress that they are significant,” he said.
The city believes the majority of risk is centred on the Bow River and Red Deer River catchment, instead of the Elbow River.
State of Local Emergency
Mayor Jyoti Gondek said that while we’ve been through two years of unpredictability and uncertainty, Calgarians have to draw upon that same patience and kindness as we get through the heavy rains and potential flooding.
“I realized that may cause some severe anxiety for Calgarians, especially those who went through this in 2013. I can tell you that you’re in good hands,” she said.
The mayor outlined some of the reasons why a SOLE is being declared. She said first, it allows police and fire the ability to go door-to-door if there’s an evacuation order.
She also said that it allows Water Services to access properties in order to protect critical infrastructure. It also allows for flexibility in purchasing, should the city need it.
Mayor Gondek said the SOLE is in place for 14-days but can be ended or extended at any point during that time.
“Please remember that the weather events we’re under right now and the river levels that we are seeing are significantly lower than what we saw in 2013,” she said.
“This is out of extreme caution that we are doing this today.”
Province says we’re better prepared than 2013
Alberta Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon said that this is a tense time for many in Alberta. Especially those that went through the floods in 2013.
“Please know that Alberta is better prepared than ever for high river events,” he said during a Monday afternoon media conference.
Nixon said the province has been in contact with municipal leaders in the rainfall-affected areas. They’re working with the cities and towns and are ready to assist, he said.
Lisa Jackson, Alberta’s Executive Director of Environmental Emergency Management said they’re providing any information they can to keep Albertans informed.
“We do have a number of experts working back at the office, crunching the data and putting it together so that we can understand who’s at impact and who’s at risk,” Jackson said.
She said the rains are moving into the Eastern Slopes and as it rolls into those areas, the rain is intensifying.
When asked if cities like Calgary could see 2013-like flooding, the province reiterated that millions have been spent on flood mitigation to protect against major damage.
Meanwhile, the City of Calgary is asking people to stay clear of the waterways. As waters rise, banks become unstable. They’re also asking people to stay informed as the situation can change rapidly.
–with files from Hajar Al Khouzaii