'A whole lot more': Calgary braces for second day of heavy rainfall

Many Calgarians are breathing sighs of relief as emergency officials report the flood threat has subsided. As Lauren Pullen tells us, people living in communities hit hard in 2013 were preparing for the worst and some had to jump into action.

Keep the umbrellas handy and the raincoat nearby as the rain for Tuesday is here to stay.

Overnight, total rain levels reached 26 millimetres near the Calgary International Airport, 40 mm at Canada Olympic Park, 47 mm in Springbank and 52 mm in Priddis. Meanwhile, a Kananaskis Country volunteer rain station reported rain levels at 112 mm.

Outside of the Stampede city, Claresholm had 47 mm of rain, Pincher Creek had 49 mm, and Crowsnest Pass had about 64 mm.

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Calgary declares state of emergency ahead of heavy rainfall

On Monday afternoon, Mayor Jyoti Gondek declared a state of local emergency out of precaution. Doing so gives local emergency services the ability to go door to door to inform people they could be evacuated and access properties if necessary.

The state of emergency will be in place for two weeks, and can be renewed if need be.

At a Tuesday afternoon flood briefing, Gondek said the city doesn’t anticipate lifting the state of local emergency once the heavy rainfall is expected to abate on Wednesday.

City officials said updated forecasts show river levels will not likely require evacuations in low-lying neighbourhoods.

Bowness Park, St. Patrick’s Island and Prince’s Island Park were closed pre-emptively at 4 p.m. on Tuesday to ensure public safety. The Calgary Fire Department said it has not had to rescue anyone from rivers in the city this week.

City and provincial officials said they continue to watch the weather system funnelling precipitation into the region and adjust river level forecasts appropriately.

“The system continues to wrap counterclockwise, pushing steady — and at times heavy — moisture back into Alberta,” said Tiffany Lizée, Global News Calgary chief meteorologist.

“Calgary could see another 30-40 mm throughout Tuesday and another 80-100+ mm is expected along the foothills. Luckily, the moisture continues to fall as snow at higher elevations in the Rockies, which means a slower melt and smaller chance of severe flooding,” Lizée said.

“A whole lot more rain throughout the day not only in Calgary but expect it in the west as well.”

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) said the heaviest rain will fall to the west and will likely happen during the day. The rain is expected to taper off throughout the day on Wednesday.

Around 11:45 a.m., the federal agency issued a wind warning for Calgary along with Rocky View County including Cochrane. Strong wind gusts of up to 90 km/h are expected in the earlier part of the afternoon. However, the wind should taper off by the evening.

“The wet ground from the ongoing rain may lead to an increased risk of tree falls,” the warning stated.

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Thousands in Calgary hit by power outages during rain, wind storm

Through the early afternoon, multiple reports of fallen trees and power outages were reported across the city. Some roads were closed and some traffic signals defaulted to flashing red lights.

Just after 4 p.m., ECCC ended the wind warning for the area, leaving the rain warning in place.

On the bright side, Lizée added the rainfall has helped pollen levels drop, as they’ve been at a high to a very high level for the past several weeks.

“Although this system will be fairly stationary on Tuesday, we’re expecting it to push east on Wednesday, finally giving the province a break,” Lizée said.

 

At a separate flood condition briefing Tuesday afternoon, Lisa Jackson, executive director of Alberta’s environmental emergency management branch, said a number of flood watches and warnings issued Monday had been downgraded on Tuesday. She said snow in higher elevations “was helpful” to reduce the risk of flood peaks.

“The snowpack itself doesn’t result in an increase in flood, but it is exacerbated by precipitation, especially if it melts the snow when it falls at those higher elevations,” Jackson said. “We also suspect that the dry conditions that we have been experiencing in southern Alberta over the last several weeks have played a role in absorbing some of the impact of the rainfall.

“We are looking down the road to see if there’s any other low-pressure centres or weather systems that would come in and impact, especially if we’re carrying a heavier than normal streamflow. So that is definitely something we are preparing for.”

Calgary residents in high-risk neighbourhoods proactively prepared for rainfall

Residents in Calgary’s Sunnyside and Bowness communities have been hit hard by the pelting rain, but after the 2013 floods, the two neighbourhoods most at risk were better prepared this time around.

“(I) made sure my downspouts and everything else were clean and made sure all water is running away from the house,” said Dirk Brubacher, a longtime Sunnyside resident.

“If it gets any worse, maybe I’ll start moving things out of the basement, but I guess we’ll wait and see.”

Residents also came prepared with their own pumps, should things overflow too much.

“We know all the neighbours along the street here, so if anyone has any issues we’ll help out,” Bowness resident Norm Ederle said. “If there’s basement flooding, we have sump pumps, we have other pumps available.”

Several residents noted that while they are living in higher-risk neighbourhoods, the current levels of the Bow River aren’t concerning them too much at this point.

Several homes in the area have city mitigation pumps outside to take water from storm sewers and pump it into the Bow River. Officials continue to patrol the water levels, however, residents noted they’re feeling optimistic for the improved forecast that lays ahead.

2013 flood in comparison: Monsoon vs. thunderstorm

Though a lot of people’s nerves are high from seeing the rain continue to fall — and understandably so — David Phillips, senior climatologist with ECCC, said it’s fair for people to compare what they’re seeing now to what took place during the 2013 floods. However, every weather event is different, including what’s taking place right now.

“I think this one is serious and it’s an issue, but it’s not nearly as impactful as that event back in 2013,” Phillips told Global News. “A lot of the difference is because of the kind of antecedent conditions that are in place this time versus what we saw in 2013.”

In comparison, Phillips pointed to how in May 2013, Calgary received 117 mm of rain while just last month the city recorded 11 mm. Prior to the flood in June (2013), there was already 147 mm of rain before that fateful June 20 day, while so far for the month there’s been about 65 mm.

“I think a lot of the tributaries, streams, farmers’ fields are likely to be flooded in this particular episode. But in terms of the major rivers flowing through the major cities, it’s not nearly as threatening as it was back in in 2013,” he explained.

“So it’s like monsoonal times versus just kind of a thunderstorm.”

​As most are well aware, weather patterns can shift and change course at a moment’s notice, Phillips said. What’s taking place now is still something to be aware of, though it’s more of a “good news” weather event than a bad one in the long run.

Granted, trees can be knocked over, power lines be toppled and the wind can cause havoc, the excess moisture will be a “drought buster.”

“This is going to really help farmers and ranchers who have low water levels. They have fields that are parched who have been dealing with a mega drought over a couple of years,” Philips said, adding it could very well be the “billion dollar” rain event that would restore farmers’ land and give them a fighting chance at a decent farm season.

Gondek said anyone experiencing a resurgence in traumatic memories from the 2013 flood can call or text 211 for counselling support.

— With files from Heather Yourex-West, Global News.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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