Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Town bracing for weekend rain

Given the varying weather forecasts for the weekend, calling for anywhere between 40 and 70 mm of rain over the next three days, the flooding situation locally is in Mother Nature’s hands.
“I can’t come to any conclusions . . . it’s all over the map,” Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig said of the forecast during a meeting of the local Emergency Control Group this morning.

“I can’t comment too much on the weather—it might be good or it might be bad,” echoed Fort Frances Fire Chief Frank Sheppard.
“I’m going to lean towards bad because, generally speaking, if anything can go really lousy here lately, it’s gone that way,” he remarked.
“So I’m anticipating a lot of water this weekend.
“That being said, we’re still managing the waterfront,” Chief Sheppard stressed, adding he’s not expecting any significant variations in what the town has to do over the short-term.
He did note the catch basins between Minnie Avenue and Williams Avenue are underwater, so the water would be coming onto the street if it were not for the fact that these were sealed off.
Chief Sheppard added they’re going to continue to manage the ground water.
“I’ve got guys monitoring every two hours throughout the night,” he said, adding he’s purchased some low-level strainers, which allow small amounts of water to be sucked off a street area.
“We’ll keep the streets pumped off,” he pledged.
Chief Sheppard indicated the next lowest level along the waterfront is just east of Armit Avenue.
“The catch basin there is still about four inches of freeboard before we’re onto the street there,” he warned.
“That will likely be the next one to go if things continue to come up.
“And at that point, we’ll be approaching the top of the bank at Witherspoons’ [home],” he continued.
“Sandbags will come into play there.”
Chief Sheppard said the next four-five days will determine if they are going to start reinforcing a few of these areas.
“We’re not done yet,” he stressed, noting about 2,500-2,800 sandbags ready to go.
They will be setting up some contact points in order to quickly notify volunteers if more sandbaggers are necessary.
Meanwhile, Operations and Facilities manager Doug Brown brought some good news to today’s meeting, saying he hasn’t noticed any changes on the upper Rainy River and Rainy Lake in the last 13 hours.
“It’s stabilized,” he noted. “It’s the first time. It’s usually an inch every day.”
Yet that hasn’t helped at Couchiching, where the flooding still is increasing.
Christine Jourdain, the emergency co-ordinator for the band, said more home evacuations are possible.
“We’re worried about potential sepetic fields being flooded and eroded,” she remarked.
“We’ve got probably seven of them that we could have them becoming part of the lake.
“So there could be seven homes there being evacuated depending on the rise of the lake,” she noted.
They are going to try to find out how many possible evacuees have family they can stay with, although Jourdain said some likely won’t.
So they plan to check into availability of local hotels to house people who might end up displaced.

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