Heavy rainfall is wreaking havoc around the East Kootenay, causing flooding in Fairmont, road closures on all routes to Calgary except Highway 3, and leaving Cranbrook and Kimberley on high alert as we watch our creeks rise.
A volunteer weather observer for 40 years, Dave Dunbar in Marysville said that he recorded 55.6 millimetres (2.2 inches) of rain in the 24 hour period between 8 a.m. Wednesday, June 19 and 8 a.m. Thursday, June 20.
“This morning is almost twice as much rain as I’ve ever recorded at one time,” said Dunbar.
Environment Canada meteorologist Doug Lundquist said that on Wednesday, Cranbrook saw 31.4 millimetres (1.24 inches), and in the first six hours of Thursday there had already been 24 millimetres (0.95 inches).
“It is not a record overall,” said Lundquist, “but we’ll see what (Thursday) ends up like. We are doing it by calendar day.
“Maybe you are not going to break any extreme record, but you have definitely broken two daily records.”
In Cranbrook, the city is closely watching Joseph Creek as it burst its banks near Baker Park.
“Public Works staff continues to actively monitor Joseph Creek and other local water bodies, along with all City storm drains for any potential flooding issues, as the rain continues to fall today. Although Joseph Creek is rising this morning, Public Works crews report that there is still ample space for the water to rise further before any flooding could potentially occur,” said Chris Zettel, corporate communications officer.
The city has prepared almost 400 sandbags should flooding conditions worsen, and it has staff and equipment on standby.
The first concert in the Summer Sounds series, set to start on Saturday afternoon in Rotary Park, has been cancelled due to the weather.
Meanwhile in Kimberley, there is a boil water advisory for all water users in Kimberley, both Matthew and Mark Creek systems.
“There has probably been a slide above the reservoir,” said Chief Administrative Officer Scott Sommerville. “We are being preemptive. We haven’t quite met turbidity criteria and with the rain forecast to continue, things will be stirred up.”
Although Mark Creek in Kimberley is not overflowing its banks, it is running very fast and the city has issued an advisory that people stay away from it.
The Marysville Falls boardwalk has been closed, as has the Lions Way trail, which follows Mark Creek from Kimberley to Marysville.
“It’s just a safety precaution because the river is so high. There is no imminent danger,” Sommerville said.
The good news for Morrison Sub residents is that the flood-prone subdivision is so far in good shape. Sommerville says that both Kimberley and Lois Creeks are not rising too quickly and there isn’t too much more snow to melt out of those watersheds.
He also said that there were no areas of Kimberley in any flood danger but that city crews were filling sandbags and would provide them to anyone who needed them.
In the meantime, city crews were out monitoring water levels, watching for any blocked culverts.
“Our main concern is trees coming in and knocking out water and sewer mains,” Sommerville said.
Getting to Calgary from the East Kootenay is now almost impossible with Highway 3 through Crowsnest Pass and Highway 2 from Fort MacLeod the only route still open.
Highway 1 through Canmore was closed overnight on Wednesday and remains closed at time of print due to severe flooding in the area.
The Alberta mountain town has declared a state of local emergency due to flooding from heavy rain.Some residents in Canmore have been forced to leave their homes and others have been told to prepare for possible evacuation.
The town says on its website that power is also out across the community.It says flood waters have made the banks of Cougar Creek unstable and dangerous.
Meanwhile, Highway 22 through Black Diamond is experiencing a flash flood, with residents who leave near bodies of water urged to evacuate and head to higher ground.
High River is experiencing serious flooding, with mandatory evacuations in the city’s north and southwest, and some residents were stranded Thursday morning.
At 10 a.m. on Thursday, a high water level alert was also issued for Crowsnest Pass, where some residents are being evacuated.
In the Elk Valley, Sparwood experienced 101 millimetres (4 inches) of rain between 4 p.m. Wednesday and 10 a.m. Thursday.
“Along the Alberta border there is really a lot (of rain),” said Doug Lundquist. “We had almost as much rain on our side as they had on the Alberta side.”
In the Columbia Valley, Fairmont is again experiencing flooding, after the catastrophic mudslide it was affected by in June.
Since Wednesday night, the heavy rain and resulting debris have blocked culverts, forcing water from Fairmont Creek into the street, through yards, and again flooding Mountainside Golf Course.
“The RDEK and its Columbia Valley Emergency Program are on scene, along with the RCMP. The Ministry of Transportation is mobilizing equipment to clear out the culverts and our priority right now is to get the water back within the creek channel” said RDEK Information Officer, Loree Duczek.
As of press times, no homes in Fairmont had been flooded, but the area is being closely monitored.
Thankfully, the heaviest rainfall is probably behind us, with Environment Canada only predicting another 25 mm to fall in Cranbrook and Kimberley.
“It’s really already waning but it will really be over by Friday evening. The worst of it is passed but it’s going to continue for another 24 hours. Then it’s pretty much over,” said Lundquist.
Once the rain clears, the City of Cranbrook is reminding people to look out for standing water, where mosquitoes breed.
“Residents are strongly encouraged to help stop mosquitos before they start by removing all sources of standing water. Some places to eliminate standing water include: clogged gutters, trays under flower pots, outside pets’ dishes, children’s pools and toys, bird baths and feeders, canoes, boats and tires,” said Zettel.
Check www.drivebc.ca for up-to-the-minute road conditions before leaving town.
With files from Carolyn Grant, Kimberley Daily Bulletin and Canadian Press.