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Calgary forecast improves, but City cautious of potential flood risk

Calgary’s potential flood situation has improved, but the City is still taking a cautious approach to manage any risks.

Emergency Management Committee members got an update from Calgary’s Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) Tuesday morning, and they heard forecasts – thus far – have improved.

Calgary is still expected to get rain throughout the day Wednesday, with 25 to 35mm expected by 2 p.m. The Elbow River is expected to crest later today and the Bow River tomorrow or early Thursday.

“As of this morning, things are looking a bit more positive than they were looking yesterday, but we are not completely out of the woods,” said CEMA Chief Sue Henry.

Francois Bouchart, director of Water Services with the City of Calgary, said they’ve benefitted from precipitation falling as snow rather than rain at the higher elevations.

The City doesn’t expect overland flooding on the Elbow River and likely not the Bow River. Still, they’re erecting the berm along Memorial Drive between 3 Street NW and the Centre Street bridge because there’s another system headed toward Calgary. It’s expected to hit June 20. The city’s watching to see if that system strengthens.

The berm that’s being built across Memorial Drive. CEMA PRESENTATION

Bouchart said they want to emphasize that they’re still expecting more rains.

“The forecast is very encouraging but again we want to make sure that through an abundance of caution that we continue on the tracks that we’re on,” Bouchart said.

Bouchart also said that as the berm gets built, pathways closures in the area will likely be needed.

Hillhurst / Sunnyside / Bowness areas

Coun. Terry Wong had further questions about the berm and also the McHugh Bluffs slope situation.

Wong asked if they expected further deterioration of that situation. It was heavy rain in August 2021 that created the current slope degradation.

CEMA Chief Sue Henry said that two evacuations were done overnight in a lower-lying area beneath the McHugh Bluff. It was done as a precaution, she said.

The Calgary police, who take the lead on any necessary evacuations, said that residents in affected areas should expect to see officers, search and rescue personnel or firefighters go door-to-door to notify them of any evacuation orders.

Deputy Chief Chad Tawfik said that they’re working with partner organizations to ensure vulnerable Calgarians living along the river banks are provided assistance.

“I can tell you our members of District 1 yesterday were out in the rain, geotagging those locations and speaking with people, connecting them with resources and that’s going to continue today as well,” he said.

Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp asked what’s being done in the Bowness area to prevent the impact on area residents. 

Bouchart said they’re keeping an eye on inflow into the stormwater system. They’re using pumps to push the water back into the river. They may add more pumps to control the water, he said. A temporary berm won’t be installed because it would sit on top of the ground and there would be seepage.

Sharp also asked about potential evacuations in the area and what sort of time threshold will residents have.

Chief Henry said they want to provide as much notice as possible.

They’re looking at additional forecasts Tuesday afternoon and will make a decision then. They want to give folks at least 26 hours before the high-water period to move safely from the area.