Alberta flooding: Several communities under state of local emergency

Rising water levels have led to states of local emergency in several southern Alberta communities. Officials with the Town of Claresholm, an hour southeast of Calgary, are asking some residents to leave their homes because of overland flooding.

Southern Albertans prepare for flooding amid heavy rainfall warning

Flooding in southern Alberta

8 years ago
Duration 3:56
Rising water levels from heavy rains have led to states of local emergency in several southern Alberta communities

Rising water levels have led to states of local emergency in several southern Alberta communities.

The Blood Reserve, 233 kilometres southeast of Calgary, joined the list of communities declaring a state of local emergency late Tuesday. A reception centre has been set up at the Blood Tribe multi-purpose building. Evacuees can report there, or call 403-737-3868 with any questions.

"There are elevated water levels in streams and rivers that may create dangerous situations or lead to flooding. The Oldman, St. Mary, Belly and Waterton rivers are rising," said an Alberta Emergency Alert.

Five other areas have already been issued warnings.

Officials with the Town of Claresholm, an hour southeast of Calgary, are asking some residents to leave their homes because of overland flooding.

The sewer system is also backing up and some homes are under water. An evacuation centre has been set up at the Claresholm arena for any residents affected by the flooding.

Schools in the town are also closed, except for students writing diploma exams. Parents are asked to take those students to the arena, where buses will pick them up and take them to their schools.

The threat of flooding is expected to continue through Wednesday as Environment Canada issued another rainfall warning early in the morning for parts of southern Alberta.

Environment Canada says a low-pressure system is expected to bring up to 70 millimetres of rain Wednesday in the southwestern foothills before tapering off Thursday morning. The total rainfall in that area may exceed 200 millimetres.

Less overall rain than expected

The rainfall warnings for Kananaskis and Canmore have ended, but several areas are still expecting heavy rain:

  • Brooks, Strathmore and Vulcan.
  • Cardston, Fort Macleod and Magrath.
  • Crowsnest Pass, Pincher Creek and Waterton.
  • Lethbridge, Taber and Milk River.
  • Okotoks, High River and Claresholm.

The rainfall warnings do not include Calgary.

Provincial government flood forecasters say much less rain fell overnight than expected.

"While overnight there were some pockets of very intense precipitation and there has been some localized flooding, the rainfall has not lived up to expectations. It's significantly less than we had predicted," said Katrina Bluetchen of Alberta Environment.

In Cardston, there are reports that Lee's Creek has overflowed and low-lying areas are beginning to flood. People in Coalhurst are also experiencing flooded basements and sewer backups. 

Oldman River to peak Friday

Lethbridge County says water levels in the Oldman River are extremely high.

Albertans living in the Oldman River Valley are being told to anticipate a potential evacuation Wednesday, and to move any livestock in the area to higher ground.

Roughly 250 homes have already been affected by overland flooding. Residents are asked to stay away from the river banks because they may be unstable.

The Oldman River is expected to peak in Lethbridge on Friday, but flow rates are now projected at less than half of earlier estimates.

"We've been making sandbags, at our city operations centre, and we've been protecting the city assets and preparing to protect residential areas," said Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman.

Officials now say flooding in Medicine Hat will not be nearly as bad as originally projected. Mayor Ted Clugston says the city is also better prepared this year for flooding.

"We're dealing with a lot of disbelief that how could this possibly happen again almost exactly a year later," said Clugston.

"Most of us believed that we would get through this year without it, but now it appears to be upon us again."

Temporary mitigation measures are being employed in Harlow, Riverside, Lions Park, Strathcona Island Park and River Flats.

Alberta Heath Services is reminding residents that floodwaters may contain raw sewage and chemical contaminants. Officials suggest using protective equipment while cleaning up the mess left by flooding, and then showering with soap and warm water.

The current heavy rainfall has also contaminated surface waters in southern Alberta, Alberta Health Services said.

There are currently no boil-water advisories in affect, but health officials say residents in rural areas using well water should take extra precautions.