Some Stettler youngsters turned July flooding on their residential street into a boating adventure this week. (Black Press file photo).

An extra-rainy July in central Alberta leads to flooding

Five of the next nine days are supposed to bring rain

Unrelenting July rain is causing flooding in some central Alberta communities and has temporarily closed some Red Deer sports fields.

Resourceful Stettler youngsters were able to boat down their residential street after a sudden, intense rainstorm hit Tuesday, while some Stettler adults were up to their knees in waters.

Red Deer’s streets and trails haven’t been affected by flooding yet. But parks manager Trevor Poth said the forecast looks a little “ominous.”

Rain or thunderstorms are predicted for five of the next nine days, so Poth said he will be monitoring the situation.

Historically, Red Deer is most prone to flooding during the third week of June. But July is susceptible to strong thunderstorms, said Environment Canada’s warning preparedness meteorologist, Dan Kulak, of Edmonton.

Only one of the city’s two weather monitoring stations is working this summer, due to staff shortages related to the pandemic. But a government station in the city’s southeast indicates that 162.9 millimetres fell from June 1 to July 8.

Kulak said this is about 50 per cent more rain than the average of 113.7 millimetres for this same period. (Normal precipitation is about 94 millimetres each for June and July).

While the Red Deer River has been running high of late, Poth said it hasn’t yet spilled onto any low-lying park trails. Since Waskasoo Creek can rise quickly, parks workers are “keeping an eye on things.”

Poth noted that Dickson Dam is only 80 per cent full, so there’s no need to open its gates and allow more water into downstream rivers and creeks.

On Wednesday, community ball diamonds and city-run sports fields in Red Deer’s Great Chief Park were closed because of rain.

All scheduled activities were cancelled to allow the soil to dry out.

Poth noticed a few other sports fields, particularly low-lying ones that also serve as storm water retention ponds, are also soggy.

He’s asking city residents to stay off the fields, as cleats and other athletic footwear will tear them up and it could take the rest of the season to reclaim them.

Meanwhile, Kulak cautions residents to always watch for fast-moving dark clouds, which signal a thunderstorm is arriving.

Rumblings or thunderclaps should be considered a prompt to immediately return indoors, since lightning kills two or three people a year in Canada — which Kulak said is more than hail, rain, wind and hurricanes.

He advises Albertans to be vigilant and not take chances with dangerous weather. Lightning and tornadoes can seemingly arise out of nowhere, he added, and “by the time you hear an emergency alert, it’s usually too late.”

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