Rising river levels have city on alert

By Thia James
June 27, 2013 - 2:09pm

Residents in areas that are at high-risk for flooding in Prince Albert have been warned to make preparations in case they have to evacuate.

The city has sandbags prepared to place in catchbasins along Macdowall Crescent and along 15th Avenue between Second and Fourth Streets. The sandbagging hasn’t begun, but the city has them on hand just in case the process needs to start.

“We do not believe that we’re going to get that kind of flow that we’ll need it,” city manager Robert Cotterill said of why the city hasn’t begun its sandbagging efforts.

The city and the Prince Albert Fire Department have been going door-to-door to warn residents on the south side of Riverside Drive, Highway 55 East and select residents in Little Red River Park to prepare for a possible evacuation order, in the event one is announced. Officials have contacted residents of all but eight of 47 homes in the affected areas.

Prince Albert Fire Department Chief and EMO co-ordinator Les Karpluk stresses that it’s an evacuation warning.

“[We’re] just giving people a heads up in case they have to evacuate. We’re not anticipating it now with some new data, but we’re erring on the side of caution.”

The North Saskatchewan River flowing through the north end of the city is expected to reach its peak sometime on Saturday. Water flowing in from Alberta is has been leading to a rise in water levels throughout Saskatchewan.

The Water Security Agency’s Patrick Boyle said Thursday that in Prince Albert, he said, there will be a steady rise of water levels on Thursday and Friday. “We’re expecting a peak to move through Saturday now at roughly 3,000 cubic metres per second.”

The river reached its peak in the North Battleford area Wednesday night. “What we saw it at 3,000 cubic metres per second, and just a note, typical flows for this time of year are roughly 500 cubic metres per second,” Boyle said.

In the meantime, residents in high-risk areas in Prince Albert are being asked to gather their insurance documents, medical documents, if they have any, medications if needed.

If an evacuation order were to go out, affected residents would go to the Woodland SIAST Campus. Although evacuated residents from Cumberland House are already staying there, there would be room for evacuated residents for Prince Albert, Karpluk said.

“We’ve had meetings with the Red Cross, the Red Cross has been absolutely fantastic. And no, if we need to, we can accommodate.”

He said they could arrange to have an alternate evacuation centre if needed, but right now there isn’t one because they don’t think it’ll be needed.

While officials expect flows of 3,000 cubic metres per second on the North Saskatchewan River, they’re putting plans in place to deal with the effects of as much as 3,600 cubic metres per second.

“So, we’re monitoring this hourly right now, we really are,” Karpluk said.

If an evacuation order were to go out, it would be announced well in advance of when the danger was to arrive. Karpluk said they’re not anticipating any problems, but they’re well prepared.

But the immediate concern is safety around the riverbanks and keeping people away from the already-flooded Little Red River Park.

Karpluk said the banks in Little Red are very unstable, but some people have violated the official request to stay out of the park.

“I urge people to stay away. Follow the signs, keep out. And when the river does rise, take all the pictures you want from the street,” he said.

“Do not go down to the riverbank.”

The city also has its eyes on how a potential flood could impact the sewage treatment plant.

Cotterill said the concern would be that with the high water level, the water could come back up through the discharge pipe and damage the ultraviolet system.

“If we thought that would happen, we would close down that pipe and discharge directly to the river, but we don’t anticipate we’ll be doing that,” he said.

No work has been done to prepare the sewage treatment plant, as officials now don’t believe the river will rise to the levels that were originally predicted, based on what was seen in North Battleford.

According to what was seen in North Battleford, the river levels will be much lower than first anticipated.

However, the city is still on alert. Cotterill said they’re always on alert until the flow reaches Prince Albert.

“But we have to go on the data that we have from North Battleford, and that is that we do not expect any problems.”

To see a video put together by the Prince Albert Fire Department of flooding in Little Red River Park, click here.

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On Twitter: @thiajames

Rising river levels force flood preps for homes, roads

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