Emergency personnel on alert for flooding

Fears of ice jams along the Kennebecassis River this weekend have emergency personnel on alert.

Snow levels, rising temperatures and forecasted rain cause for concern

Fears of ice jams along the Kennebecasis River this weekend have emergency personnel on alert.

With mounds of snow, temperatures rising and rain on the way, flooding is a big concern and Emergency Measures Organization staff are keeping a close eye on water levels.

It was the same combination of conditions that resulted in significant flooding in 2008.

The region has seen about two-and-a-half times the normal amount of snowfall for the month of March, said Environment Canada meteorologist Claude Côté.

Temperatures have also been lower than normal, keeping the snow from melting, he said.

"We saw temperatures of five to seven degrees below normal, and we are looking back at data to 1913, and in northern Maine and northwest New Brunswick, that's the coldest March ever on record."

About one-third of the Saint John watershed is in northern Maine and when it melts, it comes down the St. John River — unless there's an ice jam, said EMO director Greg MacCallum.

Because of the rain forecast for the south, the Kennebecasis will probably see some ice break up, potentially some ice movement.- Greg MacCallum, EMO

"We have some ice jams actually, that are legacies from January. In the upper reaches of the Miramichi, and in the upper reaches of the St. John River, as well as in the Kennebecasis," he said.

"The Kennebecasis this weekend, because of the rain forecast for the south, the Kennebecasis will probably see some ice break up, potentially some ice movement."

Côté says the extended forecast for April is far below normal temperatures.

Warm days and cool nights are what's needed to avoid major flooding, he said​.

"Sunshine, drier air mass, so there would be quite a bit of evaporation, melting the snow during the daytime — a temperature of maybe 10 Celsius," said Côté.

"At night, it is nice if we go back to about freezing so we're slowing down the melting. This would be the ideal situation to get rid of that significant snowpack."

New Brunswickers who live near rivers, streams and tributaries are urged to be have a 72-hour emergency kit and to have an evacuation plan.

River Watch observers hired to watch for ice jams and possible flooding will be equipped with laptops for the first time this year, allowing them to upload information more quickly and from anywhere.

The data will be shared with other provincial agencies to help with briefings, risk assessments and planning responses.