Flood coming from Alberta leads to evacuations in Sask.
The flood water from Alberta is making its way to Saskatchewan. The province announced Friday afternoon that the community of Cumberland House and Cumberland House First Nation are both being evacuated because of the rising water levels.
Members from both communities have already been contacted and the province is hoping to have the community cleared by Monday or Tuesday morning. The Provincial Disaster Assistance Program arrived in Cumberland House shortly before 11:00 a.m. on Saturday to start organizing the evacuation process. By noon, people were already packing their bags and on their way out.
Cumberland House, a community of about 2,000 people, is about 300 kilometers northeast of Prince Albert. The Ministry of Social Services said Saturday that they’re trying to keep residents as close to their community as possible. A government representative said evacuees will be placed in Prince Albert, Saskatoon, and potentially Regina.
Cumberland House officially declared a local state of emergency late Saturday morning.
This isn’t the first time the small island community has dealt with flooding.
“In 2005 Cumberland House, both communities flooded,” said Duane McKay, the province’s commissioner of emergency management told reporters Friday. “So we have some experience there in terms of low spots and some of the actions we took at that time. We’ll certainly be doing that evaluation and moving whatever equipment is necessary to protect the community.”
The Gardiner Dam and Lake Diefenbaker will help slow the water down, but there hasn’t been such high volumes flowing into the lake for 100 years. Wayne Dybvig, President of the Water Security Agency, said they expect around 6,000 cubic meters of water per second to pour into Lake Diefenbaker. Officials are hoping to slow that down to 2,000 cubic meters of water per second. During the last flood in 2011, the South Saskatchewan River was only flowing at a rate of 1,650 cubic meters of water per second.
According to the Water Security Agency, Lake Diefenbaker has never seen such high flows heading into the lake, and 2,000 cubic meters of water per second is the highest they’ve ever released from Gardiner Dam.
The WSA is releasing the high volumes of water to ensure that the reservoir has room to accommodate another peak in water flows, even though it means flooding some agricultural land along the South Saskatchewan River. “That’s what we’re forced to do,” Boyle said Saturday. If the dam were too full to allow another peak flow coming in from Alberta, the water could compromise the dam’s structure, leading to a “catastrophic disaster,” Boyle said.
The WSA is also monitoring the North Saskatchewan River. Higher than normal flows could affect the City of North Battleford’s water supply. Both organizations are working together to monitor the situation.
The flows from Alberta have reached Medicine Hat, and they're exptected to arrive in Saskatchewan on Sunday.