River levels watched

All eyes are on the river basins as rain continues to fall and wreak havoc in Central Alberta.

All eyes are on the river basins as rain continues to fall and wreak havoc in Central Alberta.

While there are no flood warnings for the Red Deer River, Blindman and Medicine, rivers in the Red Deer River Basin are under high-stream flow advisory with the water level rising.

Major flooding is not expected but there is the possibility of minor flooding in the low-lying areas of the two smaller rivers.

Carrie Sancartier of Alberta Environment said the Red Deer River is within the normal range for water levels but with more showers in the forecast, this could change.

She said current mountain snow runoff is not expected to impact the water levels based on the current conditions. Sancartier said the bigger concern is more significant rainfall but that is not what they are seeing in the short-term forecast.

This is the first time in recent years Alberta Environment staff can recall seeing every basin in the province touched by an advisory of sorts. As of Wednesday afternoon, there were also advisories for the Athabasca River Basin and the Peace River Basin.

“But if you were to compare it to 2005 where there was massive flooding in the southern part of the province, what we experienced this year does not compare to that,” she said.

Meanwhile municipalities affected by this week’s flooding are continuing to tally damage and collect information should the province introduce a disaster relief program.

Both the County and City of Lacombe and the Town of Eckville are asking residents to document the damage and to keep the repair invoices. The municipalities are encouraging residents to first contact their insurance companies immediately to determine whether the damage from the storms is covered. If residents have uninsurable claims, they are asked to contact the municipalities.

The province could take three to four weeks to introduce a program.

Close to 40 homeowners have already contacted the City of Lacombe. Michael Minchin, director of Lacombe Emergency Management Agency, said residents have become accustomed to the process because in the last three years they have had to deal with extreme weather. In the next week or so, the city will known the extent of damage.

In Lacombe County, there has been significant damage reported, including washed out roads and culverts that each cost $100,000 to $200,000 to replace.

“We’ve got some bigger issues this time comparatively to the last couple times (a relief program was enacted),” said Keith Boras, Lacombe County environmental and protective services manager.

“The county didn’t apply for provincial assistance but this time just because of the significance of the response, if a program is announced we will take a look at it and if it is a fairly big hit, we will likely put a claim in ourselves.”

In Eckville, 60 out of an estimated 100 homeowners have confirmed flood damage. Eckville Mayor Helen Posti said the town will apply for provincial assistance.

“No one ever expected to have flooding in our area,” said Posti. “We always thought we are in higher ground. We have seen the flooding to the north and to the south at certain times. It will come up over the road and go down within a day. Everything was so saturated so there was no place for that rain to go.”

On Monday, heavy storms flooded much of the town with between 150 to 250 mm of rain falling through the night alone. Posti said the cleanup is well underway.

Clearwater County has estimated the Father’s Day weekend flood caused between $500,000 to $700,000 worth of damage in areas principally west of Rocky Mountain House and northwest of Nordegg. While it is just a drop in the pan compared to the $13.5-million damage caused by flooding in 2005, the municipality will submit an application for disaster relief. The most recent rainfall has caused only minor damage in the county.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com