Heavy rain triggers Calgary state of emergency, raising fears of flooding in British Columbia

A home on Peguis First Nation with a Tiger Dam around it for flooding from 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 expected to hit southern Alberta with more than a month of rain in just three days, but the city’s mayor said officials weren’t responding. did not expect a repeat of the deadly floods of 2013.

The same wet weather has also put neighboring British Columbia on alert less than a year after historic amounts of rain caused flooding and debris slides in November. Several areas of southeastern British Columbia were under flood watch or warning, while there was an evacuation alert in the community of Six Mile, near Nelson, British Columbia.

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

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she declared a state of emergency “out of extreme caution.” Should the situation escalate, the declaration will allow experts access to properties to protect critical infrastructure. She said the order would allow firefighters and police to go door-to-door to notify residents of evacuation orders. No action is required at this time.

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

Rain is expected to batter southern Alberta through Wednesday, according to Environment Canada, which has issued rain warnings of between 75 and 150 millimeters of rain in areas like 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 match the major floods 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, instead of rain, which will “slow things down”. Forecasts also call for less rainfall compared to 2013 levels and he said cities were better prepared.

“Things could change. You never really know with these events but, right now, it’s not becoming a major event,” he said. “We just have to keep monitoring the weather very closely.”

The 2013 event caused $5 billion in damages and was, at the time, the costliest flood in Canadian history. The floods destroyed 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 divert water from the Elbow River, but the $432 million project has faced multiple delays. and construction only started last month.

Officials in Calgary said the reservoirs had been emptied in anticipation of prolonged rains. Residents have been warned of possible high flows on the Bow and Elbow rivers.

Alberta Environment has issued a flood warning on the Bow River between Banff and Exshaw, Alberta, and flood watches on the Bow, Elbow and Highwood rivers upstream of Calgary and High River, Alta. The ministry anticipates impacts on roads, parks and other infrastructure.

In British Columbia, the province’s River Forecast Center on Monday upgraded a flood watch for the Elk River near Fernie, B.C., in the southeast Kootenay region, to a warning of flooding, indicating that melting snow and unstable weather conditions have put the river in imminent danger of bursting. its banks. He warned of flooding in the East Kootenay region in particular.

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

The center also issued a flood watch on Monday for the Shuswap region, including tributaries of the South Thompson River, and high flow advisories for the Okanagan, Border and Similkameen River in southern Utah. interior. Previous flood watches for the North Thompson River and the Cariboo Mountains were maintained.

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

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

Authorities in British Columbia have been on heightened alert since an atmospheric river dumped record rains on parts of the province in 2021, destroying the road network, devastating communities and crippling supply chains. The Globe and Mail previously estimated the cost to repair what was lost at nearly $9 billion.

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

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