City of Calgary enters state of local emergency in response to heavy rainfall | The Canadian News

The City of Calgary has announced a state of local emergency in response to heavy rainfall. 

The special order came into effect at 3:59 p.m. on Monday.

In a news conference, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the special order allows police and fire departments to go door-to-door in the event of an evacuation and gives members of the city’s water services team access to property to protect critical infrastructure. 

In a warning issued Monday morning by Environment Canada, the agency said prolonged and significant rainfall events will bring 75 to 125 mm of rain by Wednesday morning in the Calgary region. In some areas, rainfall totals of 150 mm or more are possible.

Gondek stressed that the declaration of the order has been made as a precautionary measure, and that rainfall projections and water levels remain lower than in 2013, when downtown and other parts of the city were flooded.

Chief Susan Henry with the city’s Emergency Management Agency said any potential evacuations will depend on how weather conditions develop over the next couple of days. 

Bowness and Sunnyside, which border the Bow River, are the Calgary neighbourhoods most at risk of high flows, said Henry.

She added that river conditions will continue to be monitored, with peak water flow on the Bow expected Wednesday morning. 

Due to the construction of a temporary berm, a portion of Memorial Drive will be closed to traffic starting Monday evening, between Centre Street and Third Street N.W., said Henry. 

Henry urged Calgarians to exercise caution as forecasts and river conditions will continue to change quickly. 

Assistant deputy chief Brian McAsey with the Calgary Fire Department said it is unsafe for Calgarians to be on either the Bow or Elbow rivers, or near riverbanks. 

“Right now, the water is extremely turbid, so [it’s] not very clear, we can’t see into it. It’s also extremely swollen, [on] both those riverbanks. And so that means the riverbank is not a safe place for you.”

Francios Bouchard with the city’s water resources department said preparatory measures, such as lowering water levels in the Glenmore Reservoir, have been put in place since the city began tracking the weather system last week. 

Bouchard added that while both the Elbow and Bow rivers are expected to see higher flow levels, the Bow River poses a greater flood risk to the city, as current projections show more rainfall over its catchment area.

‘Tense time’ for Albertans

In a news conference in Edmonton on Monday, Lisa Jackson, executive director of environmental emergency management for Alberta Environment and Parks, said experts are crunching the data to figure out who could be affected and who is at risk across the province.

“We’re watching a significant rain event come in. We’ve seen it on radar already, and it’s starting to move into the eastern slopes,” Jackson said.

She said a complicating factor is an above-average snowpack at higher elevations.

One area that Jackson said the province is watching carefully is upstream of High River. 

“We’re just working with the communities to help understand what those impacts would be if it results in those levels,” she said.

Environment and Parks has also set up its department co-ordination centre to help manage the situation as it develops.

“I know this is a tense time for many Albertans — this is especially true for communities that were at the centre of the devastating 2013 floods,” Jason Nixon, minister of environment and parks, told reporters Monday.

“While I realize that having a flood warning or a flood watch in place will be especially difficult for folks in Calgary, High River, Canmore and other communities flooded in 2013, please know that Alberta is better prepared than ever for high river events.”

He said that since 2020, Alberta has added more than 1,500 kilometres of new and updated flood mapping, which is more than the previous 30 years combined. 

Nixon said he’s been speaking with municipal leaders in Sundre and Mountain View County, and other rural municipal leaders. Provincial officials have also been speaking with the City of Calgary and Alberta municipal associations.

“While municipal governments typically respond to flooding and other local emergencies through the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, the Government of Alberta stands ready to assist with the response, if needed,” Nixon said.

He encouraged Albertans to co-operate with local officials should there be a need to evacuate any areas in the province. He also recommended people download the province’s river app and Alberta’s emergency alert app to keep informed on developments.

“A theme throughout every emergency Alberta has ever faced is this: We are in it together. We will work together. We are resilient people and we stand by our neighbours.”

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