Alberta Foothills Weather

June 20-22, 2013 – Red Deer River Flood repeat


Beautiful and cool, toasty hot. Refreshing. Life sustaining. Frightening.
Only one of those descriptions have I heard in the past five days.
Every adjective in the thesaurus has been used to describe what has happened to southern Alberta since Thursday.
I read of the unthinkable, the unimaginable. The words I was thinking were unavoidable and inevitable.
Images and videos from the floodplains of the entire town of High River under water and of houses floating down rivers crashing into bridges as people watch and the kiddies cheer.
Media pumping hard, trying to build an equal to I don’t know what.
The worst catastrophe in the history of Alberta??
It’s been a bit overwhelming.
Three days after the water began to rise and before the power is even back on, the bankers have a number for us on economic losses we can expect due to the flooding that is still filling basements and covering large swathes of land. Media food. Ack.

A lot of rain in a short amount of time falling on the still melting snows of the Rockies does some crazy stuff. Why do people forget this? ~130mm of rain over 36 hours got the mountain streams roaring on the first day of summer.
The similarity to the flood of 2005 was amazing on the Red Deer river, not so much to the south.

Canmore got attention first as Cougar Creek flared up and ate a big chunk of the Trans Canada highway, threatening to eat a bunch of new houses parked right on the edge of a major mountain outflow. No big surprise there really.
Then Bragg Creek. Videos of people standing on the bridge over raging waters and others trundling around in their vehicles up to the doors in water having a look around. Bragg Creek people push their luck way too far.
Then Turner Valley started tweeting photos of flooded streets and suddenly High River was underwater.

Rainfall warnings were out well in advance and river forecasters made it clear there would be flooding but what actually came down the valleys was not what most were expecting. It had been since the early 1930’s that anyone had seen this much.
There were a lot fewer people and buildings to get wet in the 30’s.

If the flood of 2005 had not happened, this would have been a very big event on the Red Deer river, but lessons learned and precautions taken made this almost a non-event even though it was almost identical.
The Town of Sundre got all over it in a hurry, evacuating low lying areas that got it good last time, sandbagging vulnerable spots. Too bad about the golf course/airport area, but again the words unavoidable and inevitable come to mind.
Pretty crazy spot for a town anyway but at least you can get up a hill quick if need be.

It sounds like the Coal Camp road southwest of Sundre and a lot of the forestry trunk road from Nordegg south is chewed up pretty bad, havent heard it’s as bad as 2005 when nearly every bridge out there was washed away.
The worst damage I know of downstream of Sundre is the Garrington Bridge west of Bowden on hwy#587. Here the swollen Red Deer river ate a large armored protection dyke on the southeast side and then ate the bridge abutment, perhaps on the west side too. That doesn’t look like a quick fix and is definitely going to alter some storm watching journeys. A very handy route I use often in July to get to the hills.
Downstream of that, only a few properties got wet, the same ones that got wet in 2005. The City of Red Deer declared a state of local emergency but nothing happened other than some bike paths getting mudded.

Fingers crossed we are done with the monsoon and some heat will settle in. Duck ponds abound in the fields, crops are yellowing, even the leaves are yellowing it is so soggy. All that juice laying around as July arrives is a recipe for a lot of action, but at this point I wouldn’t mind a thick ridge for a week of blue skies.
Saturday looks interesting so far….

2005 flood map and photos
2013 Southern Alberta flood photosMore
2013 flood timeline
Red Deer Advocate story on Garrington bridge

Below are comparison shots of the 2005 and 2013 flood, perhaps a foot higher in ’05? We have dozens of shots from the same places that flooded in 2005, which may be added to the 2005 flood map at some point.

Dickson Dam flood June 19, 2005 vs June 21, 2013Dickson dam floodgates June 19, 2005 vs June 21, 2013Garrington bridge flood June 18, 2005 vs June 21, 2013
Asoowahum campground flooding June 19, 2005 vs June 22, 2013Range road 20 south of hwy#54 flooding June 19, 2005 vs June 22, 2013Range road 22 south of hwy#54 flooding June 19, 2005 vs June 21, 2013

One Response to “June 20-22, 2013 – Red Deer River Flood repeat”

  1. 1
    Dan Jurak Says:

    They call them flood plains for a reason. Just like the river valley here in Edmonton. Fifty, sixty, seventy years can go by with no flooding and then kaboom.

    The flooding seems to move up and down the foothills. There was major flooding between Nordegg and Hinton about twenty years ago. This time it’s south of that. Next time? Who knows.

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