Ice jams, rain and melting snow have caused rivers to overflow in northern parts of Canada. Whole communities have been ordered to evacuate in Northwest Territories and hundreds have been displaced in northwestern Alberta Province.
An ice jam caused flooding of the Hay River in Northwest Territories, Canada, from 07 May 2022. Around 250 residents pre-emptively evacuated their homes in the town of Hay River and surrounding areas.
The government of Northwest Territories said levels of the river remained high but steady for the following days as ice held in the river channel due to cool temperatures.
However levels jumped 1.7 metres as “ice began to shift on 11 May with an ice jam from upstream moving into the downstream ice jam near town. This shift in ice caused water levels to increase rapidly through the Town of Hay River and K’atl’odeeche First Nation,” the government said.
“Water levels are extremely volatile right now and impacted by ice in the channel. Rapid changes in water levels are possible,” the provincial government added.
Officials in Hay River town said floodwaters had reached the downtown area. An evacuation order is in-place for entire Town of Hay River and Kátł’odeeche First Nation. “Everyone must leave,” the provincial government said. The nearby towns of Yellowknife and Fort Smith are serving as host communities for the town wide evacuation.
Northwest Territories government also reported ice jams on the Mackenzie River at Jean Marie River and at Wrigley, adding that water levels are slowly increasing further downstream on the Mackenzie River, as is normal for this time of year.
Meanwhile about 280 km (175 miles) south of Hay River, local officials declared a state of emergency on 09 May 2022 after snowmelt and heavy rain caused flooding in Chateh and John D’or Prairie in northwestern Alberta Province. Around 1,000 people evacuated their homes in Chateh, according to local media reports. On 10 May the community of Paddle Prairie also declared a state of emergency and around 30 homes were evacuated.
Officials in the City of Calgary were busy making preparations for possible flooding in spring and early summer, eager to avoid any repeat of the 2013 floods in the city when 5 people died and 80,000 were evacuated.
In a statement of 12 May 2022, the City said water levels in the Glenmore Reservoir and Ghost Reservoir have been lowered to create more room for potential flood water.
In addition to seasonal preparations, Calgary is in a better position to be protected from flooding thanks to significant infrastructure investments. According to officials, these investments have reduced flood risk by 55 per cent and potential flood damages by $90 million every year.
A continuous flood barrier from the Peace Bridge to the Reconciliation Bridge will be in place this year, helping protect wide areas of the city. Construction has also begun on the Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir (SR1) west of the city.
“Once complete, SR1 is a complete game changer for Calgary, protecting thousands of residents that live and work along the Elbow River and downtown Calgary from a 2013-size flood,” said Sandy Davis, Team Lead of River Engineering. “Working with the higher gates at the Glenmore Dam, this infrastructure will reduce damages by over $3 billion through the next century, safeguard Calgary’s downtown, the region’s economic engine, protect critical public infrastructure like roads and CTrain lines and vital services like our drinking water and wastewater treatment plants that we all depend on.”
Parts of the province of Manitoba are also experiencing flooding, in particular in areas of the Red River basin.