March 9, 2015 4:50 pm

Spring thaw: No worries of flooding yet, but now’s the time to prepare

The spring thaw is just starting. But a gradual thaw means less chance of severe flooding.

File/THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
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TORONTO — Spring is a welcome thought after the persistent, gripping, seemingly unending Arctic cold of February. However, it comes at a cost.

Flooding is a serious concern for many municipalities across the country. And this year is likely to be no different, in particular for central and eastern Canada.

There is some good news, though: the warm-up will cause some of the snow pack to melt, but it’s still a bit early to be worried and that’s because it’s not warming up too much or too fast.

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“As long as we’re still getting below-freezing temperatures at night, it slows things down,” said Geoff Coulson, warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada.

READ MORE: Winter thaw – Tips to avoid basement flooding

“So… yes we’re going to see a dent in the snow pack, but it doesn’t look like a sudden massive release of all that water that’s being stored up in there, because overnight we’re going to back to temperatures below freezing,” said Coulson.

Coulson also explained that, with warmer temperatures —  and more importantly some wind — the snow doesn’t just melt — it sublimates. That’s when it goes right from water to a gas.

A map of the snow depth across Canada.

Global News

And what’s even better is that the coming warm-up comes with sunny days. That means no rain to add to the snow pack.

“Fortunately for us this year, we have quite a bit of snow, but not as much as we did this time last year,” said Lauriam Farrell, senior manager at the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA).

“We’re expecting a somewhat gradual melt, and we don’t have a lot of rain in the forecast. So for those reasons, we’re not overly concerned about flooding in the next two weeks,” said Farrell. “However, we’re always keeping our eye on the weather every day.”

Frequently spring thaw can mean ice jams in areas north and east of the Greater Toronto Area. But Farrell said that’s not a primary concern.

“If we were going to get them, last year would have been the year.”

“It really is a manageable situation, in terms of an environmental impact,” said Farrell.

What you can do

This gradual thaw is a good time for homeowners to prepare for the melt.

Be sure to clean out drains or catch basins in front of your home. This way water can be properly directed to the waterways and be less of a threat to your property.

Farrell said that with the gradual warming temperatures, now might be a good time for homeowners to walk around their property and try to make a little pathway that moves the snow away from the foundation of the house.

Hopefully you cleared out your eavestroughs in the fall. Doing this means that any water from ice build-up will flow freely through your downspout. If you haven’t, remember to do it this fall in preparation for winter.

But the main message the TRCA wants to get out, Farrell said, is to keep away from rivers and streams. Even if we aren’t getting a quick onslaught of water, there will be a lot more water and riverbanks will be soft and slippery. And it’s particularly important to get that message out to children who might be tempted to venture near waterways that may seem particularly appealing at this time of year.

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