As temperatures in the Waterloo region rise, so does the risk of flooding

With temperatures rising in the Waterloo region Wednesday, residents are advised to prepare for flooding as the snow begins to melt.

An infrastructure expert gives her top tips on how to prepare for flooding

The warmth is making a short return to Waterloo region over Thursday and Friday, where temperatures are expected to go above zero at the warmest. (CBC)

With temperatures rising in the Waterloo region Wednesday, residents are being advised to prepare for flooding as the snow begins to melt.

Barbara Robinson, CBC K-W's infrastructure columnist and president of Norton Engineering, said people should prepare for floods this week as the snow that has blanketed the region will soon be creating excess water in the city's sewers.

Environment Canada predicts Thursday's temperature to hit 6 C.

The risk of flooding with the warm weather will increase because of the large amount of snow accumulated on the ground, according to Robinson.

Environment Canada predicts Thursday's high to be 6 C, which could lead to a large snow melt in the Waterloo region. (CBC)

As the temperatures get warmer and the snow starts to melt, the water needs to go somewhere, Robinson said. But because the rest of the snow is still on the ground, the water can't flow properly and the water end up in undesirable places — like your basement.

"Snow is melting and it has a chance to go down the side of your house and we definitely don't want that to happen," she said.

How to prepare for flooding

Robinson gave Craig Norris host of CBC K-W's The Morning Edition her top tips on how to prepare for flooding.

The first step is to ensure the catch basins downstream from your home are clear, she said.

Robinson advises to check catch basins closest to your home to ensure they are clear to prevent flooding. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

"If the catch basins are covered in snow, water starts to melt, has nowhere to go, it can back up, and anytime you have water backing up it can back up into [the sewers or into your house]," Robinson said.

And while catch basins fall under city infrastructure, Robinson said residents should shovel them if they are able and it's safe for them to do so, as cities are busy trying to plow the roads.

"I imagine cities probably go around and shovel out really key catch basins, but generally speaking they haven't got the time or the resources, they're worried about getting the snow off the roads to keep people safe," she said.

'Give the water a place to go'

Next, residents should walk around the outside of their home to check that their downspouts are still in place.

"If we get a melt you want to move the water away from your home … you always want to give the water a place to go," said Robinson.

And when in doubt, shovel excess snow away from your home.

"I know everyone is excited to put their shovels away, but keep that shovel out!" she exclaimed.

There are also things residents can do from inside their home to prepare for potential flooding, like ensuring sump pumps are working or buying backwater valves.

According to Robinson, damage from the mass flooding in Windsor last summer could have been prevented if more people had backwater valves, which work to prevent water from entering your home.

The record flooding in Windsor-Essex in August 2017 flooded more than 6,000 basements in the region. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Check your insurance policies

Finally, Robinson advised people to check their home insurance policies, or get insurance if they don't already have it.

The majority of home insurance companies include sewer backup insurance. This policy means if water comes up from a sewer into your home, you're insured. But only 20 per cent of insurers across Canada offer overland insurance, which is the most likely type of flood in the event of melting snow.

The City of Kitchener also has some tips in the event of a flood:

  • Listen to local media, and follow municipal social media sites for up-to-date information.
  • Take note of key areas under warnings from Grand River Conservation Authority.
  • Do not walk in the flooded areas.
  • Do not drive around road barricades.
  • Stay far back from edges of the water as river banks will be highly unstable due to erosion and debris.
  • Keep pets on a leash near the water.
  • Wait until an all-clear is given from authorities before returning to recreational activities in the rivers and area ponds.