Heavy rain, floods prompt evacuations in southern Alberta
Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 8:37 AM - Heavy rain continues to soak parts of southern Alberta that were hit by devastating floods just one year ago.
EXTENDED ACTIVE WEATHER COVERAGE: Tune in to The Weather Network for live updates on the summer storms in your area. Our team of reporters and meteorologists in the field provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date coverage.
"A low pressure system moving across the northern United States will continue to bring significant rainfall to southern Alberta today," warned Environment Canada in a rainfall warning issued early Wednesday. "Additional rainfall amounts of 50 to 70 millimetres are expected in the southwestern foothills before rainfall tapers off Thursday morning where storm totals may exceed 200 mm."
Over 100 mm of rain has already been recorded in some places.
Several states of emergency are in effect including in Lethbridge County, the Municipal District of Willow Creek, Crowsnest Pass and Claresholm. And with a "heavy heart," Medicine Hat Mayor Ted Clugston also declared a state of emergency in the city late Tuesday night.
With a heavy heart we have declared a state of emergency tonight. I want everyone to know that the city is prepared and this council cares.— Ted Clugston (@tedclugston) June 18, 2014
Some residents were being warned to be on evacuation alert Wednesday as rivers and water levels continued to rise.
Residents are being told to stay away from riverbanks and farmers were advised to move their livestock.
In Claresholm, flooding early Wednesday prompted evacuations to a local arena.
"The Town of Claresholm has activated a Reception Centre at the Claresholm Arena located at 4912 – 2nd Street East," the town said Wednesday. "We are currently experiencing overland flooding and many homes are under water. The sewer system is also starting to back-up. All residents who are experiencing overland flooding are encouraged to evacuate to the Arena."
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."