Spirits lifting in southern Alberta as weather conditions gradually improve
Thursday, June 19, 2014, 7:35 AM - Improving weather conditions in southern Alberta are helping to ease fears of a repeat of last year's devastating floods.
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After several communities were put on evacuation alert Wednesday, officials say things are looking much better.
According to Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman, the river flow forecast has improved.
Still residents are being urged to exercise caution and remain a safe distance from flooded areas.
In Claresholm, overland flooding damaged about 40 homes and prompted voluntary evacuations in the area.
An evacuation centre that had been set up in Claresholm however, was closed by Wednesday evening thanks to improving conditions.
"Storm water systems and sewer systems are starting to catch up. If current conditions continue, the Town hopes to have the situation well in hand in short order," said the town in their 4:30 pm update Wednesday. And by 6 pm the reception centre located at the arena was closed.
"The Emergency Operations Centre is still operational but has been reduced to night-time staffing. Residents can call (403) 625-3381. If you require immediate assistance, please call 911," the town adds.
Several rainfall warnings have been dropped, but Environment Canada warns an additional 10-20 mm of rain is possible in some places through Thursday.
"A strong low pressure system continues to bring rain to portions of southern Alberta," EC says. "Areas in extreme southwestern Alberta will likely see a further 10-20 mm of rain this morning before the precipitation begins to taper off this afternoon."
Upwards of 100 mm of rain has already been recorded in some areas.
Localized flooding in low-lying areas is possible and residents are being urged to watch for possible washouts near rivers, creeks and culverts.
The timing of this significant rainfall event is eerie as it was this same time last year when 32 states of emergency were declared across the province as the flows of three major rivers rose to almost 10 times their normal rates.
It is considered the costliest disaster in Canadian history with an estimated $5 billion in damage, sparking concerns that this would be a similar event.
"Once you get into triple-digit rainfall forecasts over a three-day period, localized flooding becomes a real possibility," says Brett Soderholm, a meteorologist at The Weather Network. "That said, Alberta has learned a lot since the 2013 floods and has contingency plans in place."
With files from The Canadian Press