July 17th, 2018

Water levels sit above normal in a region forever wary of flooding

By Gillian Slade on May 20, 2017.

Water rushes along Seven Persons Creek at the bottom of Dunmore Avenue. The South Saskatchewan River and streams in the area are way beyond the usual levels for this time of year. -- NEWS PHOTO PEGGY REVELL


Water levels in the South Saskatchewan River and area streams are beyond the bounds of what is considered normal for this time of year.

Seven Persons, Boxelder and Bullshead creeks are especially high, says Alberta Environment. There is also plenty of water in ditches and low lying areas in the countryside.

The time of year is approaching when people in this region get nervous about flooding. It was June 18, 2010 when residents of Cypress County experienced a catastrophic flood. In April 2011, water in low lying areas accumulated from melting snow and engulfed many farms and ranches. The city declared an emergency that year. Sandbags stacked in doorways were a common site.

In some aspects, Medicine Hat is still recovering from the June 2013 flood that saw many residents evacuated from their homes. The Veiner Centre became unusable as a result of the flood and a number of homes were eventually demolished.

The short-range weather forecast does not call for any significant rain for the area, so there is no immediate concern for flooding, says Colleen Walford, a river forecast engineer with Alberta Environment.

“That will give those little creeks plenty of time to drain whatever snow actually did fall in the upper headwaters in the Cypress Hills,” said Walford.

Current water levels are not an indication that the region has already reached typical summer levels — earlier than usual.

“I think we could probably see it go up a bit later,” she explained. “There is nothing to suggest that there couldn’t be rain later this month or into June to rise again above average.”

Although the ground appears to be saturated and unable to absorb anymore rain that situation can change quite quickly.

“You’d actually be quite surprised to learn how quickly that can change,” said Walford.

Without additional rain, evaporation can happen quickly in the right conditions.

“That will be a thing to keep an eye on,” said Walford.

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