A flood advisory has been issued for the majority of Alberta communities, including Red Deer and the rest of Central Alberta, due to spring runoff concerns.
The advisory, first issued on Friday, was expanded on Monday to include Fort McMurray and the Peace River region.
The province’s River Forecasting Centre is monitoring river conditions and basins for signs of flooding but says no significant water level rises are expected in major rivers, like the Elbow or Bow.
The Red Deer River is also not expected to see overflowing of its banks anytime soon, said Carrie Sancartier, spokesperson for Alberta Environment.
“But there could be situations where there is some flooding in low-lying areas by smaller creeks … or from blocked culverts,” she said on Tuesday when temperatures soared to a high of 15C in Red Deer.
“In the plains area of the province, snow levels are higher than typical for this time of year and as the temperature reaches double digits, we’ll see quite a bit of melt quickly.”
According to Sancartier, the long-term forecast of what to expect for possible flooding remains obscure.
“Our experts were saying they pulled up an Environment Canada forecast for April, May and June and it said there was a 30 per cent chance of above-average precipitation and/or a 30 per cent chance of below-average precipitation so it doesn’t tell us anything yet really,” she said.
Alberta’s “rainy season” is typically between May 15 and July 15, said Sancartier, and rain is the main driver of flooding in Southern Alberta.
Meanwhile, with a number of new projects in place, Alberta’s river forecasters say they are better prepared than last year for flooding.
An automatic rainfall intensity alarm system will soon be installed in the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains in Southern Alberta to alert staff and municipal emergency managers about a rapid increase in water levels.
This will collect information from higher up the mountain and allow for a quicker response time to heavier amounts of rainfall, Sancartier said.
Additionally, a free mobile application is being developed to let the public follow conditions on rivers nearby. The app should be launched sometime in May.
Other initiatives include a weather forecasting review project and a $280,000 Assessing Flood Vulnerability Project to investigate how changes in duration and intensity of rainfall affect the timing of floods. There is also $140,000 going towards investigating worldwide best practices of river forecasting and $3.5 million from the provincial budget for flood mitigation studies.
Devastating floods hit Calgary and Southern Alberta last June, damaging over 14,000 homes and displacing about 100,000 people.