Alberta Foothills Weather

May 29 – Floods, Hail, Smoke and Mozzies

Our first taste of spring flooding came and went, with no surprises for anyone who was watching.
60-120mm of rain right about where the models put it, everything went as forecast on all fronts.

The heaviest rain came Thursday into Friday, 60-70mm in 24 hours in the Bragg Creek to Longview area,
almost 3 feet of snow up in the mountains, quickly swelling the Highwood and Sheep Rivers, threatening the low areas of Okotoks and High River. Forecasters were all over the event, streamflow advisories and flood watches/warnings coming out well ahead of any trouble, giving everybody plenty of time to prepare. The rain slowed down just in time, the rivers peaked without much ado.
The Red Deer River sub basin got lucky this time, with only the very south end getting big amounts of precip, the Little Red Deer river and Fallentimber creek collected a good amount of runoff, but nothing like the flood of 2005. That year the flow of the Little Red Deer at Water Valley peaked around 450 cubic meters per second, this year was half that. It was still enough to overflow the banks and flood the highway at crossings all the way down to Red Lodge Park. We were watching for it to go over at the low spot on Cottonwood road west of Innisfail, and checked regularly over the past 3 days, today was the highest. It had made it over the banks and was proceeding down the ditch to the east, but levels appeared to be on the decline.

This is a few weeks early for flooding around here, June 14 is traditionally high water on the Red Deer River, and there is a lot of snow yet to melt out in the mountains. The guys at the dam must be watching the precip forecast with baited breath, the gates at Dickson have been gushing since Friday trying to reserve space for what will undoubtedly be coming down the river soon. Even with the gates open the lake is filling, and being a small reservoir, it doesn’t take long to fill.

Our first real storm of the year rolled in from the northeast Friday evening just as we got home from a riverspotting tour. It was surprising to see it register as a healthy little red nob on radar, the only one in the province, it wasn’t a real warm day. I went out to have a look and thought I may have spied a little bit of rotation on the north side, but that blew apart and the rain chased me home for dinner. Then it got quite electrical. Zapping away in a heavy downpour, it took a bit of a right turn away from the yard and kept a small bean shaped core. When the rain cleared off enough to see, there was vigorous convection on the back side, it looked like a good summer storm so I took off after it. I met it’s hail track at #781 and Burnt Lake trail(#596) south of Sylvan Lake and followed it, still dropping lighting bolts like mad, out to Raven skiing along on up to maybe 3 inches of hail on the road in places. Quite a track for May, a 40km strip of white that I saw, could have been more towards Red Deer and I’m sure there was more towards Caroline . No damage as it was grape size at it’s biggest but mostly peas and smaller, and the crops are barely up. South of the hail track was torrential rain for a few km, major puddles in the fields out there in a matter of minutes. We picked up 7mm in the 10 minutes it did it’s thing here.

Saturday was spent touring around southwest of here checking out the Little Red Deer river, Fallentimber creek, and Red Deer river. Water levels were already dropping at Water Valley before we left so we focused on areas downstream. Smoke from the fires up north was wafting down in the northerly flow, quite thick and burny on the eyes. A brutal day for photography.
First spillage was across Eagle Hill road northwest of Olds. This same spot got chewed hard in 2005, this time there was a lot less flow across but it was still eating the waterfall side pretty good. We waited for a while to see what it was doing and if anyone in a compact car would try to fjord the torrent. Not a lot to see at the next two crossings upstream, the occasional chunk of burnt campfire log floating past, a tree here and there, the steeper banks keep it under control pretty good there, but at the Westward Ho crossing we found out were all the firewood was coming from. The campground was about half underwater, picnic tables washing along in the flow. That was the worst flooding we saw on the tour, Fallentimber creek at Bergen was running at more than 20x normal flow but was still not in the parking area at the little campsite there. A fantastic hunk of beef jerky from the Bergen Store always makes for a better trip.
The Red Deer river at Sundre was up for sure, but after seeing 2005, the folks there were paying it little attention. Same story at Garrington Bridge, a lot of water moving but not anywhere close to 2005.
By this time water had started to cross the highway at Red Lodge park, nothing major.

All eyes will be on the precip forecasts for a while, the folks south of Edmonton have had enough, and the folks north are praying for it. Nothing massive showing on the long range yet around here but there are a few unwanted centimeters showing for the Lethbridge-Medicine Hat zone. With all this storm fuel laying around, all we need is a few degrees of heat and away we go. Might get something starting in the footies west of here Wednesday to kick off the new month, the crazy upside down and backwards east/north flow starts to return to good old westerly flow and the storm track is forecast to start it’s move north next week, a first taste could arrive on the 5th and the first real shot of upper level wind is forecast for mid month.
What we need is some heat to cook off the crazy hordes of mosquitoes. They are truly epic this year.
Giant clouds of them spring up from the grass with every step. Bring on the Idaho high!

Rain total map from Alberta Environment – 110528event.pdf(~300kb)

Red Deer river rising west of Innisfail,AB - May 27, 2011Dickson Dam floodgates open - May 27, 2011Dickson Dam floodgates open - May 27, 2011Dickson Dam floodgates opened up - May 27, 2011
First half decent storm structure of 2011 west of Red Deer,AB - May 27, 2011
Weak mesocyclone? West of Red Deer,AB - May 27, 2011First hail track of 2011 south of Sylvan Lake,AB - May 27, 2011Freshly seeded field covered with hail north of Spruceview,AB - May 27, 2011Hail covers the road south of Eckville,AB - May 27, 2011
Little Red Deer River jumps over Eagle Hill Road - May 28, 2011Testing the floodwaters of the Little Red Deer River on Eagle Hill road - May 28, 2011Peeking under the Little Red Deer River bridge at flooded Westward Ho campground east of Sundre,AB - May 28, 2011Little Red Deer River flooding at Westward Ho campground west of Olds,AB - May 28, 2011Little Red Deer River flooding at Westward Ho campground west of Olds,AB - May 28, 2011
Red Deer River running high at Garrington Bridge west of Bowden,AB - May 28, 2011Little Red Deer River over the highway at Red Lodge Park west of Bowden,AB - May 28, 2011Great Blue Heron looks for lunch at Gleniffer Lake - May 29, 2011Canada Goose couple out for a stroll with the goslings along the Red Deer River - May 27, 2011

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