Sask. braces for floods

High runoff potential | Province urges communities to prepare now

The likelihood of flooding has increased in parts of Saskatchewan after a stormy, snowy March, the province’s Water Security Agency said April 8.

Persistent cold weather, expected through mid-April, is delaying the melt, which also increases the chance of a fast melt and subsequent flood once the temperature rises, said John Fahlman, director of hydrology and groundwater services at the WSA.

“It increases the risk of a high peak, of a very flashy runoff where the water comes all at once,” he said.

The entire agricultural area of the province is expected to see above normal runoff and large pockets will see well above normal runoff. As well, areas that were expected to see very high runoff have grown, according to the April runoff forecast.

Communities that saw flooding in 2011 are likely to experience high water levels again, and Regina and Moose Jaw could actually see more water than they did two years ago.

It all depends, however, on the weather. Earlier this week, forecasters suggested more snow would fall on the weekend.

Officials said flood preparations are well in hand.

“We feel we’re as ready as we can be,” said Ken Cheveldayoff, minister responsible for the WSA.

The government has established a cabinet committee headed by government relations minister Jim Reiter and including Cheveldayoff, agriculture minister Lyle Stewart and highways minister Don McMorris to co-ordinate preparation and response.

The highways ministry has assembled culverts and bridge replacement materials. It has 15 emergency flood trailers with portable lighting stands, 5,000 signs and markers, 500 sets of barricades, 25 400-gallon water tanks, 30 pumps, 100 night flagging kits, 750 barricade lights and 30 steamers standing by.

The Emergency Flood Damage Reduction Program, which first launched in 2011, is again available to help individuals and municipalities put either temporary or permanent flood works in place. WSA president Wayne Dybvig said 44 applications had already been received in just a few days.

The program has seen 580 permanent works constructed since 2011.

Releases from the Rafferty, Alameda and Boundary reservoirs in southeastern Saskatchewan have increased to make room for more water storage.

The WSA has also launched a mobile website for smartphone and tablet users.

“I urge people to look at the forecast and make the appropriate preparations for flooding,” Cheveldayoff said.

Fahlman said officials have revised their runoff estimates since March to predict higher water levels along the Qu’Appelle River system, especially in the headwaters at the Moose Jaw River and Wascana Creek through Lumsden. Lake levels will be higher than expected in March but still lower than 2011 at this point.

Moose Jaw is likely to see a considerable peak, perhaps approaching the record of 1974, he said. The city also tends to see significant ice jams that cause water to back up.

The Wascana Creek through Regina will reach higher levels than 2011 but not higher than 1974, he added.

A few weeks of 10 C days and -5 C nights would minimize the flood risk.But sooner or later, it won’t freeze at night.

“The later this goes, the more likelihood that we’re going to get a rapid change of weather,” Fahlman said.

If the high peak does occur, it might lessen the duration of flooding, he said.

“I’m sure the farmers would rather just see it get warm and stay warm so they could get out there.”

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