With a wet May in the books and more rain to begin June, rivers and creeks in Calgary are running high.
And with the 2013 floods a not-so-distant memory, rising river levels are raising concerns in the city.
“Not so much for flooding, but water levels in both the Elbow and the Bow Rivers are at the high end of the normal range for this time of year,” Frank Frigo, leader of watershed analysis for the City of Calgary, told Global News. “And certainly we’re within that May 15th to July 15th period.
“That is the period where we typically see the highest seasonal values, as well as the period where we’re in almost all of the flood events of our historic record have been contained.”
Frigo said the fluid situation in that two-month period has city forecasting teams work around the clock monitoring river conditions and coordinate with the Glenmore Reservoir and Water Treatment Plant to manage Elbow River levels. City of Calgary teams also work with the province’s river forecast centre and TransAlta “to ensure that we have capacity to attenuate any potential events.”
May was one of the wettest months on record in Calgary, receiving 110 millimetres of precipitation.
The city was forecast to receive 40 mm of rain over the weekend of June 6-7.
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Frigo said spring melt in the nearby Rocky Mountains has contributed to high river levels, acting as a “floor” to those levels. High rainfall amounts can push the Bow and Elbow rivers to burst their banks.
“So we’re looking at conditions that are likely to be at high end of the normal range, certainly for any pathway users or anyone close to rivers. But there isn’t the concern that we would have significant overbank flooding.”
Frigo’s team estimates about two-thirds of the snow that would melt into the Elbow River catchment has been melted, and about 40 per cent of the snow that melts into the Bow River catchment remains.
The reservoirs that are along the two rivers are ready for high volumes of water that may come to them.
“Both the Glenmore Reservoir as well as reservoirs on the Bow have been drawn down to pre-flood levels so that there is the capacity to attenuate flows, should they increase.”
Frigo said now is not the time to take to either river for pleasure.
“We are expecting water levels in both the Bow and the Elbow River to rise in the next day or so,” Frigo said Sunday.
“Not very significantly, but enough that the possibility of having boating safety issues — that is people rafting, getting hung up in the bars around pathway underpasses and dealing with that colder, more swift-moving water.
“For those reasons, we’re advising that that boating safety advisory would be adhered to.”