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Rains subside and Calgary flood concern wanes

Rainfall forecasts didn’t reach the upper limits and that’s given the City of Calgary optimism that flood concerns will pass.

Still, Water Services director Francois Bouchart said the weather can change at any moment and they’re remaining vigilant.

Calgary declared a State of Local Emergency Monday, with lingering worry that rainfall amounts could reach 150mm in the Bow River basin.

Bouchart said the rainfall was significantly less than the maximum of the upper-end forecast. That, coupled with the freeze line being lower than expected, meant that 25 mm of precipitation fell as snow instead of rain.

“That means that in terms of the Elbow (River) unless we have significant changes in the current conditions, we will be able to manage the incoming flows without any localized flooding,” Bouchart said.

“In terms of the Bow River, the water levels are going to be again significantly lower to the point where we are able to achieve water levels that are below the trigger for evacuations.”

The City expected the Elbow River to crest Tuesday evening and the Bow River sometime Wednesday.

Out of precaution, the City has closed Bowness Park, Prince’s Island Park and St. Patrick Island as of 4 p.m. Tuesday.

The Hillhurst Sunnyside berm construction proceeded Tuesday, and Bouchart said they expected it would be done Tuesday evening. It will remain in place until the peak of the event has passed through the city, he said.

“We’re very optimistic in terms of the outcomes and what is going to develop over the next day and a half,” Bouchart said.

“As we see those peaks flow through the city, I do want to remind everybody that weather is very dynamic and conditions on the river can change very, very quickly.”

High flood concern areas

LiveWire Calgary toured the flood map areas of concern on Tuesday as the rain continued in Calgary.

In Sue Higgins Park, the water levels were high, but not enough to engulf the dog jumping dock adjacent to the Bow.  There was standing water in the area, but the rain was light. Yes, there were a number of dog and owners still playing in the area.

There was standing water in Sue Higgins Park, but no threat of overland flooding in the area. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Moving northward to Glenmore Trail, where a massive flood structure was built, the Graves Bridge boat launch was closed to users. The flood gate had also been closed. A pump was removing water from stormwater basins and pushing it back into the Bow River.

Up at Hillhurst Sunnyside, the berm construction was well underway by mid-morning. Crews on site said they began construction around 6:30 a.m. Tuesday after equipment was delivered the prior evening.

Dump trucks filled with clay from the city’s soil recycling centre were lined up along Memorial Drive on Tuesday. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

The rain was heavier in this area through the afternoon.

In Bowness, tree debris was a major problem. There were downed trees in the area and debris on the streets. Several pumps were in the area as there are dozens of homes built within a stone’s throw of the Bow River banks.

Homes along Bow Crescent in Bowness are right along the Bow River bank. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

‘Zero concerns’

Bowness homeowner Randy, who didn’t want his last name used, said they knew what they were getting into when they built on a parcel right next to the Bow.

They knew it was on the floodplain.  The home was finished last November, and it’s built with the mechanical all on an upper floor, not in the basement. The foundation is built as high as allowed, too.

They’re roughly 50 feet from the water line on Tuesday in a tiered backyard. Randy pointed across the Bow River and said his neighbour informed him that the 2013 floodwater didn’t reach a pipe jutting out that would be roughly the equivalent to the level of his house.

Bowness homeowner Randy stands next to the pump line returning water from the area stormwater drain back into the Bow River. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

“It would have to go way over your head right now,” he said, as he stood next to the water.

As the weather forecast rolled in, there may have been a bit of tension, Randy said.

“I mean, I could get a bit of water in my basement. You get tense, I guess. There’s a little bit of tension and a little bit of ‘what if?’” he said.

Randy said, with the massive pump outside his Bowness home, he wasn’t concerned about major problems.

“I have zero concerns,” he said.

The gates have been shut on the outflow just outside his backyard, allowing no water in or out.

The pump takes the water from the stormwater system and pushes it back into the Bow River.

Flood plan working: Mayor Jyoti Gondek

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the SOLE was declared to give the city the resources to deal with anticipated heavy rainfall.

“We appreciate that Calgarians understand how important it is for us to exercise an abundance of caution at this time,” she said.

“Preparation for this event to date has shown us that plans and processes are in a very good place.”

The mayor also said that the investments made in flood mitigation over time have proven to be effective.

At this time, Mayor Gondek said she didn’t know the cost of the response. Once they have a clearer picture, they may be able to go back to the provincial and federal governments for help.

A tree was downed along Bow Crescent in Bowness on Tuesday. High winds in the area did add difficulty to the flood response, the City said. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

The Calgary Fire Department once again reminded Calgarians to stay away from the rivers. Erosion and high waters can create a safety risk.

The City was also aware of downed trees and power outages as a result of high winds in Calgary. Downed trees can be reported through 311.

The high winds did impact the flood response today, putting more pressure on Calgary Parks crews, said Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Sue Henry. It required them to think broader in terms of their response.

“It hasn’t affected our preparedness and our ability to be able to monitor the river conditions as well as respond to the river conditions,” Chief Henry said.

On Tuesday afternoon, the province downgraded the Bow River basin to a high streamflow advisory.

They said rainfall west of Calgary was in the 60 to 80mm range, with some areas getting 110mm.

The Elbow River and Fish Creek were also downgraded to high streamflow advisories.