Already drenched Prairie farmers face another deluge

A large swath of the southern Prairies that has already been drenched by rain is getting another deluge.

A large swath of the southern Prairies that has already been drenched by rain is getting another deluge.

Rainfall warnings were out Thursday for southeastern Alberta, southwestern and central Saskatchewan and part of western Manitoba.

Environment Canada said the heaviest rainfall was expected along the Alberta boundary and in a line from Kindersley through Saskatoon and Wynyard into Kamsack.

The Blood reserve southwest of Lethbridge declared a state of emergency after water flooded roads and basements in the community.

Residents who couldn’t get to their homes showed up at the social services office looking for a place to stay.

“There are a lot of roads that are washed out where people either cannot leave home or they cannot get into their homes,” Oscar Cotton, emergency services director, told CTV Calgary.

“There’s some elderly people who left home yesterday and they didn’t leave with their medications, so they need somebody to get back into the house and get medication for them.”

Ed Chiefmoon was one of those looking for a place to stay because the road to his house was impassable.

“I know cars can’t even go through,” he said. “My daughter, my family, they can’t come home.”

“The water, it’s coming in from every which way,” said Carrie Scout, who spent the morning helping relatives evacuate. “They’ve got a two-day-old furnace and hot water tank from the last flood, and that’s all gone again.”

A flood warning was issued for three southern Alberta rivers including the Lee Creek in Cardston, Alta., after the community got 90 mm of rain on Thursday.

People in Cardston have begun sandbagging to protect their homes and businesses.

The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority issued a high streamflow advisory Thursday afternoon warning that creeks or streams in the affected area might overflow their banks and water could overtop roads.

Manitoba issued a flood watch for western regions and Alberta had a high streamflow advisory for all tributaries flowing out of the Cypress Hills in the southeast.

Parts of Saskatchewan were forecasted to get 75 millimetres of rain by Friday — what they might normally see in the entire month of June.

“June is your wet season, but this is ridiculous. I mean this is a monsoonal kind of situation, reminiscent of what you’d see in another part of the world,” said David Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment Canada.

Phillips said a lingering low-pressure system that came up from Montana is to blame.

Phillips said one of the best things about Canadian weather is that “it doesn’t stand around and torment you too much.” He noted that systems usually move quickly, but that’s not the case this time.

“What you’re seeing is a very slow-moving system. It’s more misery, has more time to spread the agony and these huge amounts of rain.”

Much of the moisture is falling on land that is already waterlogged —a problem for farmers. According to Saskatchewan Agriculture’s weekly crop report released Thursday, about one-quarter of this year’s crop still isn’t in the ground. Farmers would normally be done seeding by this time of year.

Many have struggled with seeding because of the rain. Excess moisture and flooding in many areas have left fields inaccessible. Grant McLean with Saskatchewan Agriculture said the latest downpour will end sowing hopes for many.

“Producers who were trying to get the balance of their seeding done were dodging between sloughs and also rain showers, and some of those rain showers were quite heavy,” said McLean.

“It’s been a real challenge to get even three per cent (more into the ground). Individuals have put a supreme effort in.”

The Canadian Wheat Board said in its preliminary crop outlook released last week that three million to five million hectares could go fallow this year in Western Canada because fields are too soggy. It’s been wet from southern Alberta through Saskatchewan and into eastern Manitoba. The board said the region has had record wet weather since April 1.

Nearly 40 rural municipalities in Saskatchewan have declared themselves agricultural disaster areas because they are too wet for farmers to plant crops.

Phillips said the rain has been a big hit to agriculture. It’s also a psychological blow, “a real downer,” and the longer range forecast may not bring bright news.

“This is a significant rainfall and then a couple of days with sunshine and then we’re back into something on Monday that could also be a soaker,” he said.

“It’s becoming very repetitive and it’s certainly something that people don’t need.”