As we approach the anniversary of the 2013 flood, I thought it would make sense to provide an update on the recovery and general flood awareness information.
If you are still struggling after the effects of the last flood, the Canadian Red Cross can help you meet your basic needs and is also managing applications for the Flood Permit Grant Program. Flood-affected homeowners can also apply for property tax relief for the time they were displaced from their home, courtesy of the City of Calgary, with support from the Government of Alberta.
Now to look to the future... it may seem a little early yet, but Calgary’s typical flood season lasts from May 15 – July 15 so we’ve just begun! The City has launched Calgary.ca/floodinfo, which will be updated with all the information you’ll need, and provides a link where you can sign up for an e- newsletter to stay completely up to date. One recent newsletter interviewed City of Calgary leader, River Engineering, Frank Frigo, who gave some great background information on what causes flooding in certain years.
There didn’t seem to be a lot of snow this year. Is the snowpack in the mountains low?
Frank: From Alberta Environment’s measurements, the mountain snowpack is currently within the normal range, although at the lower end (~350 mm at 2000 m elevation). Mountain snowpack can continue to increase in May and June which are two of our region’s wettest months.
Considering that there is a normal snowpack in the mountains, what is the risk of flooding this spring?
Frank: Although the amount of snow and the rate of snowmelt are contributing factors to river flooding, the highest risk is when heavy rainfall in the watershed combines with snowmelt. The rain and snowmelt flow off the mountains into the river rapidly and the runoff then travels a relatively short distance through steep river channels to arrive in Calgary. By this time the runoff is flowing rapidly and severely, which may lead to river flooding with little or no warning.
What is The City doing to monitor conditions in the mountains?
Frank: The City continually monitors developing rainfall systems, the rate of snowpack melt, soil moisture conditions, and river, reservoir and lake levels in the mountains. Monitoring is intensified in the May to July period. We then work with Alberta’s River Forecast Centre to analyze the data collected to determine flood risk and potential flood events.
So as you can see, despite what seemed like quite a dry, mild winter we could still end up with flood conditions. Besides signing up for the City’s newsletter, I recommend downloading both the Government of Alberta's Emergency Alert and Alberta Rivers: Data and Advisories mobile apps. The Province has also come to an agreement with TransAlta to lower the water level at Ghost Reservoir by 6 metres to allow for any additional rain or snowmelt that might flow into the Bow River.
Since the Elbow River flows through our ward, I encourage you to check out the Elbow River Flood Readiness Information Session on May 28 at B'nai Tikvah Temple Social Hall from 6:30-8:30pm. Representatives from both the City and the Province will be on hand to explain how they are preparing for future flood events.
The City also has information about personal preparedness at Calgary.ca/floodprep so you can find out what you can do to keep you and your family as safe as possible. Do you have a 72 hour emergency kit ready? There's a list of everything you need! With all these resources in place, I hope we can work together to mitigate the negative impacts of Calgary’s majestic rivers.