Environment Canada defends warning systems in wake of Toronto floods

Watch above: Why Environment Canada is defending weather warning systems in wake of Toronto floods. Mark McAllister reports. 

TORONTO – A heavy downpour caused flash flooding and transportation problems in Toronto Wednesday evening and Thursday morning.

And meteorologists are reminding Torontonians Thursday it’s difficult for them to pinpoint exactly where and when flooding will occur.

Environment Canada has been criticized for not forecasting last night’s flooding that gripped several parts of the city including the Don Valley Parkway. But Dave Phillips, a meteorologist at the weather agency, said on Newstalk 1010 Thursday morning, it’s next to impossible to forecast localized events.

“Let’s face it. It’s hard to get these little cells that just open up and dump huge amounts of rain, it doesn’t matter if you have super computers or Doppler radar, you’re not going to get everybody’s forecasts for their backyard correct,” he said.

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WATCH: Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly praised the city’s response to the heavy rainfall and flash flooding which disrupted transit and flooded several major roadways in the city

And Toronto’s burgeoning development doesn’t help. Natural landscapes can help prevent flooding, allowing rainwater to seep into the ground but the concrete that covers much of the city turns every rain drop into a “flood drop,” Phillips said.

“It used to be with dirt parking lots and wooden sidewalks, some of the stuff would percolate in the ground and you wouldn’t see it. 50 per cent of the city of Toronto is impervious to a rain drop,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter how bone dry Toronto is, a rain drop becomes a flood drop when it falls on cement and asphalt and building materials.”

A band of heavy rain that moved south through the city caused a deluge of between 30 and 40 millimetres of rain.

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A flood warning issued by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority Wednesday has since been cancelled.

Environment Canada meteorologist Geoff Coulson explained flash floods, much like tornadoes, are difficult to forecast accurately because they develop and move “very quickly.”

“So what we’re trying to get out there is at least the messaging in a sense that this is a possibility, there is a chance of this happening,” he said in an interview Thursday.

WATCH:  A male driver needed to be rescued from his vehicle near Sunnybrook Park following a flash flood Wednesday night.

He also downplayed federal government cuts to Environment Canada’s funding, saying the weather agency has received more money to improve their weather forecasting service.

Even though motorists were warned about dangerous driving conditions and the risk of hydroplaning – especially in low-lying areas and underpasses – Toronto Emergency Services still had their hands full.

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A section of the DVP was closed in both directions between Bloor St. and the Gardiner Expressway due to flooding but was reopened to traffic just before 6 a.m.

The flooding caused delays with both the TTC and GO Transit Wednesday night and into Thursday morning. However, by noon all delays had been cleared.

READ MORE: Strong odds of El Nino weather event’s return by end of year: U.N.

Despite the floods, Wednesday’s storm wasn’t close to Toronto’s 24-hour rainfall record last July when over 126 millimetres of rain fell in one day.

Highways and city streets were closed due to severe flooding, forcing several drivers to abandon their vehicles.

1,400 commuters had to be rescued from a GO Transit train after it became stranded in flood waters.

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