Edmonton

High water levels spur advisories for Pembina, North Saskatchewan rivers

Streamflow advisories are in effect after river water levels across Alberta rose dangerously high this weekend.

Pembina River Tubing shut down on weekend due to surging water

On sunny days, the Pembina River near Entwistle draws crowds of people to enjoy a lazy float on the water. (CBC)

Streamflow advisories are in effect after river water levels across Alberta rose dangerously high this weekend.

At the Pembina River near Entwistle, where people flock on sunny summers days for a lazy float on inner tubes, the water was surging.

Water levels rose from less than a metre to almost three metres this weekend, according to Alberta Environment and Parks. 

Pembina River Tubing manager Cheryl Harris said floating the river normally takes about two and a half to three hours. This weekend, it would have taken just 15 minutes. The dangerous conditions forced her to close her business until Monday.

"In one hour it raised two feet," she said. "The water is dirty and there were actually live, 100-foot trees floating down the river at its peak."

There were actually live, 100-foot trees floating down the river at its peak.- Cheryl Harris

Harris said the water levels have been dropping slightly, so she reopened her business Monday morning to tubers 18 years old and up. She said life jackets are mandatory and she will cease tube rentals if the water levels rise again.

"Especially if you don't have a life jacket, you could possibly get into some of these areas on the rivers where there is an undertow, and that will actually suck you down and into the river and there's no coming out of that," she said.

A streamflow advisory is also in effect for the North Saskatchewan River downstream of Drayton Valley after it rose by a metre this weekend. 

Streamflow advisories are issued when there's been a rapid change in water level but no risk of flood or damage to infrastructure, said Nathalie Brunet, a river forecast engineer with Alberta Environment and Parks.

Brunet said the advisories will be lifted once water levels return to normal seasonal ranges — likely sometime this week.

When water levels rise, sandbars can become submerged and fast-flowing water poses other hazards. 

That doesn't necessarily mean paddlers and other rivers users should avoid going out, she said.

"Stay within your own ability and do some research and get some background info," Brunet said. "Know what you're getting into."

now