Flood forecasters in New Brunswick are using new technology to track snow loads and ice movement, hoping more information leads to less damage.
Jasmin Boisvert, a water services specialist with the Department of Environment and Local Government, says the province has been developing a new flow forecast model with the help of the National Research Council and the University of Waterloo.
“We will be testing this new flow forecast on a day-to-day flow operations mode – which is the first time we will be doing this,” Boisvert said.
“This new model … incorporates the latest technology and the latest knowledge in the field of hydrology.”
He said they’ve also upgraded their flood early warning system and are sharing the information with partners like NB Power to help better manage operation of dams on the rivers.
Greg Carroll, an operations superintendent with NB Power, said the province’s River Watch system monitors a drainage area of about 55,000 square kilometres.
He said the technology helps provide some advance warning of flood potential.
In some cases the technology is combined with some simple techniques, he said.
“We’ve actually deployed a GPS puck in a barrel and put it off the Perth-Andover bridge on a solid ice cover and when the ice started to move the GPS barrel moved along with it and it sent signals to our control centre to let us know that the ice is on the move,” Carroll said.
Officials say the amount of snow on the ground in northern New Brunswick is about normal – about a metre or more in some places – but has twice the water content as last year. In southern New Brunswick the snow cover is below normal.
The annual River Watch gets underway next week and Greg MacCallum, director of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, says the potential for flooding will be determined by the amount of rain and ice jams that occur.
“We will get advance notice with radar, Intellicast and all those tools that the weather provides, but the actual amount of precipitation and the rate of the melt – those are the variables that determine flood or no flood,” said MacCallum.
“None of us can tell you two weeks or three weeks from now if there’s going to be a significant rainfall. That is the one piece that requires so much monitoring.”
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MacCallum said the risk of flooding has begun, and anyone living or working along the rivers should be on alert.
“This is the time of the year where you start to pay attention to our ice and its movement, rapid increases in water levels, and we want people to do their part by taking the necessary steps to be safe,” he said.
He said people need to stay off the ice and out of the water.
“A quick look at the water courses in the province will tell you that the ice is deteriorating very rapidly. In some cases it’s already starting to move and it’s unstable. The currents are pretty swift and the water is extremely cold,” MacCallum said.