ERCA activates flood contingency plan as snow melt starts

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ERCA activates flood contingency plan as snow melt starts

The Essex Region Conservation Authority has activated its flood contingency plan and is warning people to prepare for surface flooding as the region's recent record snowfall starts to melt with rising temperatures. 

Most of the region was slammed with snow last week and hit again with precipitation including freezing rain well into Sunday night that totalled beyond 30 centimetres in some locales, according to ERCA's director of watershed management services.

"None of the ground is going to absorb any of this melt and if you get more rain on top of that — it's all run-off that's got to go someplace," said Tim Byrne.

Byrne said most municipalities have been out checking catch basins, culverts and key water flow points to make sure the infrastructure can handle the expected surface flooding. 

24 mm of runoff possible

"Any snow clearing that's taken place ... on road surfaces — that snow has been cast into ditches and drains," said Byrne. It will transform into blocks of ice with the warm temperatures, he added. 

Temperatures will begin to rise up to 8 Celsius with rain on Thursday. 

Byrne said the current snow cover could melt into as much as 24 millimetres of water that can't immediately be absorbed into the frozen ground. 

"It's a real concern," said Byrne. 

Help wanted: clean drains

The City of Windsor spent $2-million clearing snow over the weekend and they're now asking for help from residents as they attempt to clear tens of thousands of catch basins throughout Windsor. 

"We won't be able to get to all the catch basins," said City Engineer Mark Winterton.

"If you're so inclined to, shovel out adjacent to the catch basin to allow the water ... to drain away," he said.

Winterton agrees there is a risk of flooding as the snow melts quickly in residential areas. 

"Primarily it's surface flooding over the next few days as a result of melt water," he said.

"So we really are trying to direct the melt water to the catch basins as much as possible. While there may be some rain we are not anticipating that it's going to be to a significant level that it should cause major basement flooding situation."