Flood outlook eases for southern Alberta

Improved forecasts Wednesday were lifting soggy spirits in southern Alberta where heavy rainfall and swollen rivers had residents worried about evacuations and damage to their homes.

Improved forecasts Wednesday were lifting soggy spirits in southern Alberta where heavy rainfall and swollen rivers had residents worried about evacuations and damage to their homes.

“The rain is lightening, the infrastructure is catching up to the excessive flows,” said Rob Steel, mayor of Claresholm, where a voluntary evacuation centre had to be set up after rain came down in sheets earlier in the day.

“If it stays like this, it’ll just get better and better as each hour goes by.”

Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman said concerns were eased when lighter rainfall lowered peak forecasts for the Oldman River, which runs through his city.

“Things are looking much better,” he said. “To our relief, the rainfall upstream wasn’t as severe as predicted overnight so the provincial river flow forecast has improved significantly.”

The same forecast was welcome news in Medicine Hat, where Alberta Environment was predicting peak flows on the South Saskatchewan River at 2,400 cubic metres per second — less than half the original prediction that had people fearing a repeat of the deluge that happened in 2013.

“What we’re telling people now is they can stand down,” said Medicine Hat fire chief Brian Stauth. “We don’t anticipate that we are going to evacuate.”

Things could change, however.

“We’re still very concerned because there’s a heavy rainfall warning in effect,” Steel said. “This is still a very dynamic situation.”

Alberta Environment spokesman Evan Friesenhan explained that initial river forecasts were based on rainfall predictions of up to 200 millimetres in the southwest part of the province. While rainfall was as heavy as predicted, it wasn’t as widespread.

“We did get a localized area that received 175 millimetres, but as we moved away from that bull’s eye the amounts decreased significantly,” said Friesenhan.

“We didn’t get the 200 millimetres over as large an area as was forecast.”

Even with the threat subsiding, the mess left behind is significant.

Claresholm, a town of 3,800 about 130 kilometres south of Calgary, has about 40 damaged homes — some surrounded by water and some swamped, Steel said. In some cases, sewers backed up.

About 250 homes in Lethbridge were affected, most with flooded basements.

Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Guy Weadick said 20 families were forced from their homes on the Blood reserve. They were being housed in a recreation facility in nearby Standoff.

In all, nine communities and municipal districts declared states of local emergency. Another three activated their emergency response plans.

The flooding came as southern Alberta prepared to mark the one-year anniversary of the 2013 flood. In total, 100,000 people had to flee their homes last June. Damage estimates have reached as high as $6 billion.

Communities hit the hardest in that flood — including Canmore, Calgary and High River — are further to the north of the area currently experiencing high water and are expected to pull through relatively unscathed.

Longtime Claresholm resident Joanna Sutter said she has seen it all before.

“I’ve personally been flooded twice in my home and I’m trying to save it for a third time. I’ve been there, done this … before and it just brings back horrible memories,” she said.

The community will pull through, she said.

“There’s no shortage of help here. We’ve been through this so many times and people are willing to step up.”

Claresholm resident Phyllis Faulkner said she watched as water poured into her basement, just as it did last year.

“I’m standing there. The water’s running in and I’m screaming at the top of my lungs, going, ’I can’t stop it. I can’t stop it,”’ she said.

“I’m going to lose everything again — my brand-new furnace is under water again. My brand-new hot-water tank is under water again.

“They’re done. They’re toast.”

— By Bob Weber in Edmonton, with files from Jennifer Graham, CJOC and CHQR

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A woman walks through Toronto’s financial district on Monday, July 30, 2018. A new poll suggests most Canadians believe there’s still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in this country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Canadians, especially women, say gender equality not achieved in Canada: Poll

63 per cent said equality between men and women has not been achieved

FILE - In this March 3, 2021, file photo, anti-coup protesters run as one of them discharges a fire extinguisher to counter the impact of tear gas fired by riot policemen in Yangon, Myanmar. The escalation of violence in Myanmar as authorities crack down on protests against the Feb. 1 coup is adding to pressure for more sanctions against the junta, as countries struggle over how to best confront military leaders inured to global condemnation. (AP Photo/File)
Escalating violence raises pressure for Myanmar sanctions

More shootings were reported over the weekend

A moth-killing drone hovers over crops in a green house in Monster, Netherlands, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. A Dutch startup is using drones to kill moths in midair as a way of protecting valuable crops in greenhouses that are damaged by caterpillars. PATS Indoor Drone Solutions emerged from the work of a group of students looking for ways to kill mosquitos in their dorm rooms. The drones themselves are very basic, but they are steered by smart technology and special cameras that scan the airspace in greenhouses. When the cameras detect a moth, a drone is set on a collision course with the bug, destroying the bug with its rotors. (AP Photo/Mike Corder)
Drones vs hungry moths: Dutch use hi-tech to protect crops

Drones instantly kill the moths by flying into them

Health-care worker Jenne Saunders prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Palais de Congress site as Quebec begins mass vaccinations based on age across the province on March 1, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada set to receive more than 910,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines this week

Federal government looks for vaccine-makers to finalize delivery of eight million doses by March 31

Statistics Canada’s offices at Tunny’s Pasture in Ottawa are shown on Friday, March 8, 2019. Newly released documents show Statistics Canada considered delaying this year’s census until 2022 over pandemic-related concerns. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Statistics Canada considered delaying this year’s census to 2022 due to pandemic

A census takes seven years between the start of planning to the release of data

Ben King scores for the Red Deer Rebels during the third period of a Western Hockey League game against the Calgary Hitmen at the Westerner Park Centrium Saturday. (Photo by Rob Wallator/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels complete comeback to pick up first win of season

Rebels 3 Hitmen 2 (OT) The Red Deer Rebels were able to… Continue reading

Treena Mielke
Seasons changing: Hope around the corner with vaccines

The month of March is leaving its muddy footprint on the land… Continue reading

Hamilton Forge FC’s Giuliano Frano (8) heads the ball against CD Olimpia’s Jorge Benguche (9) during Scotiabank CONCACAF League 2019 second half soccer action in Hamilton, Ont., Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. Forge FC owner Bob Young says the Canadian Premier League champions will be playing the Canadian Championship final against Toronto FC at a disadvantage. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power
Forge FC owner upset at Canada Soccer’s timing of Canadian Championship final

Winner of Canadian Championship final earns a berth in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League

Team Wild Card Two skip Kevin Koe reacts to his shot as he plays Team Newfoundland and Labrador at the Brier in Calgary, Alta., on March 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Wild Card Two’s Koe beats Gushue 9-7 to hand defending champs first loss at the Brier

Gushue was a tad heavy with his final draw and Koe picked it out for the victory

(Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No regrets: Grammy-nominated DJ Jayda G on choosing beats over sciences career

TORONTO — House music producer Jayda G knows a thing or two… Continue reading

This image provided by Harpo Productions shows Prince Harry, left, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, speaking about expecting their second child during an interview with Oprah Winfrey. “Oprah with Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special” airs March 7 as a two-hour exclusive primetime special on the CBS Television Network. (Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via AP)
UK royals absorb shock of revealing Harry, Meghan interview

Anti-monarchy group Republic said the interview gave a clearer picture of what the royal family is like

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan takes part in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa on December 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservatives to call top Sajjan, Trudeau aides to testify on Vance allegations

OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives plan to summon two senior Liberal aides… Continue reading

Elvira D'Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Several provinces were preparing to loosen COVID-19 restrictions on Sunday, as Canada’s… Continue reading

Mount Pearl Senior High in Mount Pearl, N.L., remains closed on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The provincial health authority says there were 185 cases at 22 schools, including 145 infections among staff and students of one high school in Mount Pearl that was an early epicentre of the outbreak. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
In Newfoundland and Labrador, three ingredients made for explosive COVID-19 outbreak

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — With her classes, three part-time jobs and a… Continue reading

Most Read