Heavy rains trigger state of emergency in Calgary, fears of flooding in BC

A house in Peguis First Nation with a Tiger Dam around it from the flooding of the Fisher River north of Winnipeg on May 15.JOHN WOODS/The Canadian Press

Calgary declared a state of emergency on Monday as torrential rains were forecast to dump more than a month’s worth of rain in southern Alberta in just three days, but the city’s mayor said officials did not expect a repeat of deadly flooding. of 2013.

The same humid climate has it also put neighboring British Columbia on alert less than a year after record amounts of rain caused flooding and debris slides in November. Several areas in southeastern BC were under flood watches or warnings, while an evacuation alert was in place for the community of Six Mile, near Nelson, BC.

Forecasts in both provinces predict that the worst will be over by mid-week.

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she issued a state of emergency “out of an abundance of caution.” If the situation worsens, the declaration will give experts access to properties to protect critical infrastructure. She said the order would allow firefighters and police to go door-to-door to inform residents of evacuation orders. No action is necessary at this time.

“I realize that that may cause some fear, some anxiety for Calgarians, especially those who went through this in 2013,” said Ms. Gondek. “I can tell you that you are in good hands.”

Rain is expected to hit southern Alberta through Wednesday, according to Environment Canada, which has issued rain warnings of 3 to 6 inches of rain for areas including Banff, Calgary and Rocky Mountain House, Alta.

Water expert Dr. Alain Pietroniro, a professor at the University of Calgary, said the expected rainfall is significant but unlikely to mirror the major flooding seen in 2013 when more than 100,000 Albertans were displaced.

Professor Pietroniro said precipitation in the high mountains is expected to fall as snow, rather than rain, which will “slow things down”. The forecast also calls for less rainfall compared to 2013 levels and said cities are better prepared.

“Things could change. With these events you never quite know, but, for now, it’s not setting up to be a major event,” she said. “We just have to keep watching the weather very closely.”

The event in 2013 caused $5 billion in damage and was, at the time, the costliest flood in Canadian history. The flooding hit thousands of homes and killed five people, including one in Calgary and four others elsewhere in the region.

The province later approved a reservoir in Springbank, Alta., 15 kilometers west of the city, that will be able to divert water from the Elbow River, but the $432 million project faced multiple delays and construction began last month.

Officials in Calgary said reservoirs have been emptied in preparation for extended rains. Residents have been warned about possible high flows in the Bow and Elbow rivers.

The Alberta Environment Department issued a flood warning for the Bow River between Banff and Exshaw, Alta., and flood advisories for the Bow, Elbow, and Highwood Rivers upstream of Calgary and High River, Alta. The department anticipates impacts to roads, parks, and other infrastructure.

In BC, the province’s River Forecast Center updated a flood watch for the Elk River near Fernie, BC, in the southeastern Kootenay region on Monday to a flood warning, indicating that melting snow and unstable weather have put the river at imminent risk of breaking. its banks warned of flooding in the East Kootenay region in particular.

“Given the uncertainty in the position of the weather pattern and the heavier rainfall, it is possible that adjacent areas in West Kootenay and Upper Columbia will also experience significant flows,” the center said in a statement.

The center also issued a flood watch Monday for the Shuswap region, including tributaries of the South Thompson River, and high flow advisories for the Okanagan, Boundary and Similkameen River in the southern interior. Previous flood watches have been in place for the North Thompson River and the Cariboo Mountains.

Environment Canada issued a rain warning for the Elk Valley, saying 50 to 80 millimeters of rain could be expected by Tuesday night, causing flash flooding and pooling of water on roads. The city of Fernie activated its emergency operations center, closed trails and set up sandbagging stations for residents.

On Sunday, the Central Kootenay Regional District issued an evacuation alert for some 120 properties in the Six Mile community, north of Nelson, BC.

Officials in BC have been on high alert since an atmospheric river dumped record rainfall in parts of the province in 2021. wiping out the highway system, devastating communities and crippling supply chains. The Globe and Mail previously estimated the cost of repairing what was lost to be around $9 billion.

On Monday, the Abbotsford City Council approved a flood mitigation project which, in the event of a Nooksack River overflow, would direct water over the west side of the Sumas Prairie and through a designated floodway to the Sumas and Fraser rivers. The city will now work out the details of the plan and prepare a funding presentation to the province.

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