City of Calgary declares local state of emergency as rivers rise

Near Calgary, sections of the Bow, Elbow, Highwood and Fish Creek rivers are under a 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 that increases the risk of local flooding.

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Heavy rains are expected to melt higher-than-usual mountain snowpack, increasing flow rates and water levels in several rivers, prompting the province to issue multiple flood warnings in the south. and central Alberta. Environment Canada issued a rain warning On Sunday, Calgary and the nearby mountainous regions are estimated to see between 75 and 125 millimeters of rain on Wednesday morning, with localized amounts up to 150 mm.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the city is making the declaration out of an abundance of caution, mainly so police and firefighters can go door-to-door to alert people if there is an evacuation order. It will also allow city water utility crews to access properties as needed to protect infrastructure and gives management some “buying flexibility.” The declaration will expire after 14 days.

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“We’ve been through two years of uncertainty and unpredictability in which Calgarians have been incredibly patient, compassionate and kind to each other,” Gondek said during a Monday afternoon news conference.

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

While the rhetoric dates back to the devastating floods of 2013, which caused an estimated $6 billion in damage and resulted in the deaths of at least five people, Gondek assured residents that river levels are currently “significantly lower than expected.” that we saw in 2013″.

The city began preparing flood mitigation efforts the Sunday before the downpour, lowering water levels in upstream reservoirs on the Bow River and Glenmore Reservoir to accommodate anticipated flooding, among 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 starting at midnight Tuesday.

The city said the highest risk of flooding is in the communities of Bowness and Sunnyside along the Bow River. The river’s flow is expected to peak on Wednesday or early Thursday afternoon.

“I want to emphasize that while the flows are not forecast to be as significant as they were in 2013…they are significant,” said Calgary water resources director Francois Bouchart.

Since 2013, the city has made significant investments in flood prevention, including a downtown flood barrier that runs through the center of the city from the Bridge of Peace to the Bridge of Reconciliation. The city has said the improvements have reduced Calgary’s flood risk by 55 percent and potential flood damage by $90 million each year.

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In a separate news conference Monday afternoon, Parks and Environment Minister Jason Nixon said this is a tense time for many Albertans, especially those affected by the 2013 floods. He said the government has much more confidence in Alberta’s ability to handle major weather events like this thanks to significant investments made over the last 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.

“One theme in all the emergencies that Alberta has faced is this: We are in this together, we will work together,” he said. “We are resilient people and we support our neighbors.”

Calgary’s River Cafe, located along the Bow River in Prince’s Island Park, is proactively closing shop and moving its perishable food and wine out of the restaurant as the river rises. Owner Sal Howell said her cafeteria suffered flood damage in both 2005 and 2013 and she won’t take any chances this year.

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

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The province has issued flood warnings by various rivers and streams. The Alberta 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 the Red Deer River southwest of Red Deer. Reaches of the Bow and Elbow Rivers near Calgary are under a flood watch, as is the Highwood River and Fish Creek in High Level and Foothills County. Several Highwood tributaries in the area have a high flow advisory.

The Bow is expected to be hardest hit in the Banff and Canmore area with around 3 to 6 inches of total rainfall, according to river forecasters. The Highwood River, which flows through the High River, is set to get between 100 and 130mm.

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For the Bow River watershed, the River Forecast Center said water level rise of one to two meters, as well as seepage and basement flooding, is possible. The Elbow could experience minor flooding off the upstream bank of Glenmore Reservoir and downstream trails could be affected. Water approaches the lower deck of the Center Street Bridge at High Level, but flows are expected to remain in the levee system.

The city of Banff says trails near the river will be closed and sandbags are being prepared. Encourages residents to sign up for their emergency alert system at The Town of Canmore says that more than 50mm of rain will cause flooding problems in low-lying areas and continue to monitor the situation. The city closed the road under the Bow River Bridge in Canmore last week and more roads may be closed. Currently, there are no active sandbags along the river banks in any of the communities.

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A sign warns that the flooded road under the 25th Avenue Bridge in Erlton was closed as the Elbow River swelled with steady rain in the forecast for Calgary on Monday, June 13, 2022.
A sign warns that the flooded road under the 25th Avenue Bridge in Erlton was closed as the Elbow River swelled with steady rain in the forecast for Calgary on Monday, June 13, 2022. Gavin Young/Post Media

High River Mayor Craig Snodgrass said the city does not expect flood risk anywhere near 2013 levels, especially with infrastructure improvements and the purchase of some at-risk properties since that event. Anticipating a less severe impact on Highwood than in 2013, Snodgrass said the city isn’t worried about the oncoming rain “but we’re not complacent, either.”

“We know very well what we have experienced in the past and we will never take our eyes off that river, especially 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 all of us.”

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

“We are a long way from testing the actual amount of what our infrastructure can support,” he said.

— With files from Jason Herring

[email protected]

Twitter: @miguelrdrguez

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