City prepping for flood risk

·3 min read

As Calgary declares a state of emergency and other centres across the province brace for expected flooding following heavy rainfall, officials with the City of Medicine Hat assure residents they are closely monitoring water level and flow.

“Environment Canada indicated roughly 150 millimetres of rain would fall in the western portion of the province (over the next three days), with the majority of that being in Calgary,” Merrick Brown, city support services manager and fire and emergency services director of emergency management, told the News. “So based on that, they’ve issued whether it be a flood warning, flood watch or high streamflow advisories for the upstream rivers. It doesn’t actually quite hit Medicine Hat. But based on that, and through regular communications with River Forecast Centre, we’ve elevated to what’s known as a Level 2 emergency activation this morning.”

Brown explained the city utilizes a four-level emergency management plan to determine the degree of response needed in urgent situations.

“Level 1 is kind of day-to-day operations, where we monitor potential threats,” Brown said. “Level 2 is when we’ve identified a potential threat. Level 3 is when the threat is indirectly impacting us and we actually need to move into formal response mode. That’s a partial city response with a Level 3. A Level 4 is a full city response.”

While Medicine Hat is not currently under advisory, the South Saskatchewan River has increased in water level over the past week. As of Monday, the river’s water level was sitting at just under 2.5 meters; up from 1.85 meters on June 7. River flow remains below-average at approximately 175 cubic meters per second.

The closest advisories to Medicine Hat are high streamflow advisories for the Red Deer River near Empress and the mouth of Bow River, both of which have increased in water level and river flow since last week.

“We are closely watching what is occurring upstream.” said Brown. “At this point, based on consultation with the River Forecast Centre, we don’t perceive there would be any overland flooding risk to Medicine Hat. Now, obviously, that can change very quickly. (So) if we do identify there is an overland flooding risk, we would deploy our flood-mitigation material and all other actions within our flood response plan.”

Since Medicine Hat’s 2013 flood – during which the South Saskatchewan River flowed at approximately 5,200 cubic meters per second, damaging more than 2,800 properties and displacing more than 8,000 residents – the city has worked to improve flood-mitigation infrastructure, practices and training. As well as constructing permanent berms and flood walls, the city has relocated lift stations and now conducts annual flood training, which most recently took place June 1.

“We’re seeing roughly about 150 millimeters compared to 250 millimeters in 2013. If that weather pattern continues or worsens, there could be a risk of flooding (but) we’re quite well-prepared for an event of this scale,” Brown said.

While Brown believes there is no reason for concern at the moment, he encourages Hatters regularly review or devise a personal preparedness plan.

“We always need to be prepared for anything, not just flooding,” he said. “(Ensure you have) a 72-hour grab-and-go kit, which is ultimately an evacuation kit, because anything can happen, any time.”

During a Monday press conference, Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon also encouraged Albertans to be prepared, asking they follow directions provided by local authorities and stay informed with the Alberta River app and Alberta Emergency Alert app.

, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News

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