Town keeping a close eye on snow pack

Okotoks: Rainfall warnings and flood watch issued

By: Roxanne Blackwell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jun 18, 2014 05:33 pm

Robert Knox makes his way over the Sheep River on the footbridge in Okotoks on Tuesday morning. Water levels continue to rise in the river as rain falls this week.
Robert Knox makes his way over the Sheep River on the footbridge in Okotoks on Tuesday morning. Water levels continue to rise in the river as rain falls this week.

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Foothills residents are on the edge, careful about using the f-word as the anniversary of the 2013 flood approaches.

As rain fell over the foothills this week, some rivers were put inder high stream flow advisories, however local emergency officials aren’t sounding the alarm.

“There is no advisory (for the Sheep River), levels are fairly low but it’s always good to be cautious said Okotoks fire chief Ken Thevenot.

Evironment Alberta issued a flood watch for the Wallaceville area in High River on June 16, after a rainfall warning was put in effect for areas within the MD of Foothills calling for 60-100 mm of rain.

Residents are being asked to take usual precaution near the rivers which are being monitored but are currently sitting at normal levels.

Okotoks municipal manager Rick Quail reported to Town Council on Monday June 9 that they’re keeping an eye on the snow pack levels on Mount Odlum, and so far so good.

“It was higher than usual but now we are back to normal with about a one week delay from historic periods,” he said.

The report showed that although there was a higher amount of snow than last year, it has receded at its normal slow rate due to the cooler nights that we experienced throughout May.

Gregg Schaalje, MD of Foothills Fire Department deputy chief, said they’ve been monitoring the water levels, but even from here in the Foothills you can keep an eye on what’s happening in the mountains.

“It’s interesting because two weeks ago you look at the mountains and you go ‘whoa’ because it was all white from top to bottom,” he said. “You look at it today and you can see a lot of rock on the mountains which, is a very good sign because if you see that rock it means the water has slowly been coming.”

All of the area’s fire departments including Okotoks, High River and Foothills, have been brushing up on their swift water rescue techniques to ensure that they’re prepared should anything happen.

“The Sheep River is moving at about six knots right now which is fairly fast it would definitely take someone and move them down the river fairly fast,” he said. “But the amount of moisture we are getting and with the heat, the streams are able to take it right now. As long as we don’t have 150 mm of rain, or 300 like we did last year, in 24 hours we should be good.”

Quail said that while snow pack is something to keep an eye on, it’s large quantities of rain that cause the melt to happen quickly and the rivers to overflow.

“Snowpack is not the contributor to increased flow rates, it’s actually heavy rainfall and ground saturation,” he said. “So what we really look for is weather patterns, what we’ve learned in the past decade is to watch for weather patterns with high concentrations of rainfall.”

But Quail said at this point, they’re optimistic that all of the flood mitigation projects that have been completed so far will help us get through the season without issue.

“At this point in time snow pack is at normal levels, and weather forecast is periodic shower activity going forward, everything is looking fine,” he said. “But mother nature, she’s the boss and she calls the shots and we must always be in a state of readiness and prepared.”


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