Floods close Trans-Canada at Sask.-Alta. border

Flooding from heavy rain has forced the closure of the Trans-Canada Highway at the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, along with several other roads and an interprovincial park.
A bridge on Highway 21, about five kilometres south of the town of Maple Creek, Sask. was flooded Friday morning. ((Courtesy Walter Wenaas))
Flooding from heavy rain has resulted in evacuations and forced the closure of the Trans-Canada Highway at the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, as well as several other roads and an interprovincial park.

Several communities, including the town of Maple Creek, Sask., which has about 2,200 residents, declared a local state of emergency on Friday.

"We are seeing flows that are going to create record flood levels," said Doug Johnson, director of basin operations with the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority.

The Trans-Canada Highway was closed Friday morning from the border to the junction with Highway 21, just north of Maple Creek. On the Alberta side, the Trans-Canada was closed from the border to Medicine Hat.

Highway 21 was also flooded south of Maple Creek. Another local route, Highway 271, was closed from the town to Fort Walsh.

In the afternoon, a stretch of the Trans-Canada three kilometres long on the Saskatchewan was under water. Normally, more than 5,000 vehicles a day cross the section. 

On the Alberta side, there was water on the Trans-Canada from the border to Walsh, Alta., another three kilometres.

Vehicles rerouted

Thousands of vehicles had to be rerouted north through Kindersley and then west to avoid water-covered roads.
Water was streaming across the main streets of Maple Creek at around 3 p.m. CST. ((Courtesy Colleen Kennedy))

"We have had some flooding in this area, but never to this extent," Highways Ministry spokeswoman Kirsten Leatherdale said.

At the root of the problems, many areas around the province have received 100 millimetres of rain or more over the past 48 hours.

There are several dams and reservoirs around the area that have been filling up rapidly. The problem is that water has to be released, but if it happens too quickly, flooding could worsen in the surrounding communities.

Creek levels in Swift Current, Sask., are also becoming a concern, with some flooding a possibility there on the weekend, provincial officials said.

Water flowing into Saskatchewan from Alberta is expected to raise levels on the South Saskatchewan River by more than three metres in certain areas on the weekend. In Saskatoon, the river will rise by about 60 centimetres but shouldn't overflow.  

In Maple Creek, people were being evacuated from the west side of town. A trailer park, a hospital and several homes were evacuated. 

Sandbags were being set up around a long-term care home, which was put on standby. Numerous basements were filling up with water

'Just a lake'

Marsha Cannon, who was trying to drive through the area on the Trans-Canada on Friday morning, told CBC News it looked like one big lake.

"You can't see either lane of the highway. There's just a lake," she said.
The junction of Highway 21 and Highway 271 looked like a lake on Friday. ((Courtesy Colleen Kennedy))

Unable to proceed, Cannon was facing the detour to Kindersley. "It's frustrating, but what can you do?"

The rain also forced the closure of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. The road into the park was closed due to flooding and some park-owned buildings have water in their basements, provincial government officials said.

Officials at the visitors centre at Maple Creek said motel spaces were being snapped up quickly. They were encouraging stranded travellers to find hotels east of the town.

According to Environment Canada officials, Saskatchewan is having one of its wettest springs in decades. Many farm fields are flooded from the relentless rain.

Saskatoon received 23.9 millimetres of rain on Thursday and Regina got 15.5 mm, Estevan 22.4 mm, Yorkton 18 mm and Prince Albert 20.2 mm. More rain is a possibility in many areas Friday night.