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Flooding likely in Nelson, city warns

Kootenay Lake could reach 2012 levels.
In 2012, Lakeside Park and the playing fields were covered in water. Water levels could reach similar levels this year. (Nelson Star file photo.)

There is a good chance of flooding in Nelson in the next few weeks, according to Nelson Fire Chief Len MacCharles.

He said it could be comparable to 2012, when Lakeside Park and the soccer fields were underwater, and there were flash floods downtown as well.

“One of the most important emergency management things you can do,” MacCharles told the Star, “is make the community aware of what is going on.”

MacCharles is a certified emergency manager, and ran the emergency management for Calgary during its severe flooding in 2013.

Because he is so attuned to flooding and emergency management issues, he put out a press release this week, explaining that Fortis B.C. has reported that Kootenay Lake levels are expected to reach 1,752 feet by the end of May and, depending on weather conditions, could reach a height of 1,754 feet. That’s a little higher than the level that flooded Lakeside Park in 2012.

But it was not just the lake level that created the 2012 flood.

“The flooding was caused by a large volume of water running downhill over land following a thunderstorm, overwhelming the storm drainage system,” he said. “The high lake levels that flowed into the storm drainage system back-filled the lowest pipes leading into the lake.

“Lake levels are predominantly being driven by natural inflows from a heavy snow pack along with precipitation and the natural outflow constriction at Grohman narrows. Warm weather with heavy rains pose the greatest chance of elevated lake levels and potential for overland flooding.”

Wind can also increase the likelihood of flooding by pushing lake levels higher in some areas, he said. Environment Canada is predicting temperatures to be about five-to-10 degrees above normal this week, then a return to seasonal temperatures with no heavy precipitation forecasted at this point. With the warmer weather, creek and river levels can be expected to rise.

Public works crews have been clearing away debris from creek grates and will continue to conduct creek checks to make sure flows do not become blocked. Sand and bags are available to residents that may need them to protect their property and to those that have experienced flooding from high creek flows or high lake levels in the past.

MacCharles cited theInsurance Bureau of Canada, which has reported that the majority of municipal infrastructure in terms of storm drains across the nation are not able to take on the future of these extreme weather events we are expecting.”

The City of Nelson has reported that its new stormwater infrastructure being put into Hall Street is built with climate change in mind, allowing for 30 per cent more rainfall.

MacCharles says the city has asked him to do an emergency management assessment report, which he expects will come before council in the next few weeks.

Residents are asked to notify Nelson Fire and Rescue Services (250-352-3103) or Public Works (250-352 8238) if they notice any water blockages or any unsafe conditions.

In 2012 the Lakeside playing fields were underwater. (Nelson Star file photo)