Alberta flood watch continues

A man looks over a flooded backyard in Claresholm, Alta., on June 18, 2014. (Darren Makowichuk/QMI...

A man looks over a flooded backyard in Claresholm, Alta., on June 18, 2014. (Darren Makowichuk/QMI Agency)

Katie Schneider, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:36 AM ET

CALGARY -- Nine communities remained under states of local emergency Wednesday, but provincial officials watered down flood fears, saying the situation is not as dire as was expected.

"It shouldn't get much worse than this," said Evan Friesenhan, director of river forecasting with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.

While there has been overland flooding and sewage backup in some areas, he said rainfall in Southern Alberta was not as widespread as originally forecasted.

The Oldman River at Fort Macleod is expected to peak Thursday at 700 cubic metres per second (cms) and at Lethbridge on Friday morning at 1,800 cms.

The South Saskatchewan River at Medicine Hat should peak at 2380 cms on Saturday.

"We don't expect any secondary peaks or worse flooding after the levels do peak initially," Friesenhan said.

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Stephen Carr, director of central operations with the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, said the communities impacted by flooding have shown "tremendous resiliency," requesting very little in terms of support so far.

"They're demonstrating impressive efforts by their local leaders, who we rely on, to actually manage the situation," he said.

"The situation is not nearly as dire as, perhaps, we might have imagined 24 hours ago and things are looking better."

Some communities have already proceeded to planning their recoveries, he added.

Claresholm is one of the communities under a state of emergency.

Heavy rain that intensified overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday flooded the west end of the town 132 km south of Calgary with water surrounding homes and seeping into basements, days before the anniversary of Alberta's worst flood.

By afternoon, 38 basements were flooded, six others had been pumped out, and residents were given the option to evacuate to a reception centre set up at the Claresholm Arena or else urged to stay inside and off roads.

Tim Dumais woke up at 5 a.m. to his neighbour banging on his door, alerting him to the creeping water, the worst he can remember in recent years.

"I looked outside and I had no yard, no nothing," he said.

In his concrete basement, only two steps were above water -- the rest of it, his furnace and some keepsakes, were all submerged.

Mayor Rob Steel said Claresholm has implemented significant flood mitigation measures since 2005, when it experienced a similar event, including sanitary and storm sewer system upgrades.

"This event could have been much worse had we not done those things," he said.

"Unfortunately there comes a time when you receive so much water in such a short period of time it just overwhelms all our sanitary and storm infrastructure."

Other communities that had declared states of emergency include Claresholm, Coalhurst, Cardston, Coaldale, the Blood Indian Reserve, Medicine Hat, the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass, the Municipal District of Willow Creek and Lethbridge County, according the province.

The city of Lethbridge, High River and Piikani Nation opened emergency operations centres, but were not under states of emergency.

In Lethbridge, 250 homes were affected by overland flooding.

On the Blood Tribe Reserve, 44 people were still out of their homes Wednesday after being evacuated as a precaution Tuesday and several roads were closed due to flooding, spokesman Rick Tailfeathers said.

Most of the evacuated homes were along the Belly River, which was swelling up to its banks.

In Cardston, the Lee Creek peaked about 4 a.m. but without threatening any homes, and in Coaldale residents were asked to minimize water use.

katie.schneider@sunmedia.ca
On Twitter: @SUNKSchneider


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