Monday, June 24, 2013

Pincher Creek and area less affected by flooding issues than other parts of southern Alberta

Partially washed away - bridge to Cottonwood Campgrounds
C. Davis photos and videos
  • Stay out of the back country
  • Water levels subsiding
  • Two area bridges damaged
  • One person rescued
  • Several campers stranded in Beaver Mines area

C. Davis and T. Lucas - "We're coming off better than anyone to the north of us,"  said Pincher Creek Emergency Services Chief Dave Cox earlier this afternoon.  That opinion was echoed by MD of Pincher Creek No. 9 Director of Operations Leo Reedyk, who said in a separate interview "Really, we're not that bad off."

They were of course referring to the flooding event that is continuing to impact the lives and property of so many in southern Alberta.  That's not to say our area has been unscathed by the disaster.

Oldman River Dam yesterday

"There's no people at risk, that we know of (in the area)," said Chief Cox.  "Public Works has it under control," said Reedyk.

As of 3:00 pm today, Friday, June 21 there were still approximately eight people trapped at the Beaver Mines Campground, which is close to Camp Impeesa.  Chief Cox said he has been in contact with the campers and they are relatively comfortable and can walk out at any time, but the road is currently impassable for vehicles, with more debris still washing onto the impassible area making it difficult to clear the road.  "Alberta Parks is working on the access in Beaver Mines Park to get those campers out," explained Cox.  "They will have to wait until the water flow subsides so that they can fix the road.  A whole bunch of gravel got washed into the culvert, then all the gravel went on top of the highway.  They got an excavator to clean it up, but while they were trying to clean it up, more was washing down."

Yesterday at about 5:30 am Emergency Services responded to a flooded basement and at about 6:00 am they rescued a resident and her dog in Beaver Mines. Beaver Mines Fire Department and Pincher Creek Rescue attended, and Pincher Creek Rescue brought a boat, which was ultimately not used in the rescue.

Cottonwood Campground bridge
The Cottonwood Campground bridge, which is located downhill from the Oldman River Dam spillway, is currently impassable. "It's washed out, the approach is gone on the south side," said Cox.  Leo Reedyk said that another public bridge was also affected by flooding, this one east of Twin Butte on Range Road 29-1.  The approach to that bridge was washed out and it is currently impassable.

Cottonwood Campground bridge

Reedyk said there were a number of washouts in the MD of Pincher Creek where water has flowed over the roadway "taking a bunch of gravel with it".  Trees and debris lodged under bridges is also somewhat of a concern.

When asked if their was a timeline to repair the damaged bridges, approaches, and roadways Reedyk said "We're going to make every effort to do the priorities first."  He said that with workers and equipment being needed in such numbers in other parts of the province, it might take a while for some situations in this area to be resolved.   "If there's only one way in and out, we're going to fix that first."  He said the MD had initiated repairs even yesterday during the runoff, unplugging culverts to minimize the damage.  In the case of both damaged bridges there are alternate routes for those that need access to the areas they serve.

Pincher Creek Community Emergency Management Agency (PCCEMA) has been monitoring the rainfall and stream flow in the area, and is prepared to act if it becomes an emergency situation for the Pincher Creek area.  Cox is the Director of that agency in addition to his role as Emergency Services Chief.  He said that even though all the stream flows are down in volume today there is still high water, compromised roads, and more rainfall expected in the back country.

Cox said the high water point in the area occurred yesterday, June 20 around midday.

"We had about 2 inches of rain in the Halifax Flats," said Reedyk, "and as much as 10 inches in the Porcupine Hills and Beaver Creek".  According to Reedyk snow in the higher elevations was actually beneficial, because it diminished the amount of liquid precipitation.

Cox urges people to stay out of the  back country until it is officially declared safe again.  Reedyk said SRD and RCMP have posted that there is to be no random camping in the Forestry at this time and that barricades have been installed at the Forestry entrances due to washed out culverts and roadways and an inability to properly assess more safety issues at a time when their attention is required elsewhere.

"Due to all the stress all emergency agencies are under in all areas we are very limited in our response into the back country," concurred PCCEMA Assistant Deputy Director Brett Wuth.

Piikani Nation valley
Chief Cox said that PCCEMA has been in contact with the Provincial Operations Center to offer resources to other areas that may be in need of trained staffing during this time of widespread crisis.  At the time of this interview he said they had not yet responded to the offer.  "It's a Provincial base, and they could send us where we're needed."

"The dam is not releasing any where near as much water as it was," said Chief Cox, referring to the huge volumes being released yesterday.  Brett Wuth said Alberta Environment manages the dam and flow.  He explained there is a balance between using the dam to buffer against heavy rainfall, "as in this event", and having efficient water flow for irrigation for the year. Wuth said by a certain point during this event "The dam was as full as it can be and they were forced to release the water out of the dam close to as fast as it was coming in."  He said the peak flow yesterday was 21,100 cubic metres per second.  By comparison, during the flood of 1995 peak flow was approximately 27,000 cubic metres a second, according to PCCEMA Chair Bjorn Berg.*

As a side note, he explained that the reason the dam is designed to have the water wash upward at the end of the spillway is to avoid washing out the riverbed at the bottom of the spillway.  "However, you can't have that much water go through that fast and have no erosion," he said.

Oldman River Dam today, June 21

Town of Pincher Creek Director of Operations Al Roth said that inside of Town limits there was no infrastructure problems due to the heavy rain.  At approximately 2:00 pm on Thursday June 20 the Town sent aid to the Municipality of the Crowsnest Pass. which included three vehicles, a trailer of supplies, a skid steer and 12 employees. They worked in Crowsnest Pass for approximately 12 hours, returning sometime after 2:00 am this morning.

"I want to stress the positive work that the Crowsnest Pass staff was doing," said Roth.  "We were there to assist under their direction, and we did everything from traffic control to heavy equipment operation."

According to Leo Reedyk The Municipal District of Pincher Creek No. 9 has officially notified the Emergency Management Agency that damage has occurred within the Municipality, and that both the Municipality and residents will be making claims as a result of this weather event.

The Oldman River was quite noticeably lower this morning at about 11:30 am compared to yesterday afternoon at about 3:30 pm at the Oldman River Dam and the Summerview Bridge.

Cottonwood Campground closed until further notice

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