Fredericton is flooding
It appears that the spring of 2008 will go down in the books as a bad flood year for Fredericton and the Saint John river. Over the past few weeks warm weather has quickly melted a large amount of snow in the Saint John valley watershed. There was such a large amount of snowpack which had accumulated over the winter that in the last week of April, the river has reached and surpassed the flood level of 6.5 meters. In fact the river reached 7.2 meters on April the 24th. Luckily, the following weekend was nice and dry which allowed the water levels to subside slightly back down to the 7.1 meter level which while above flood level is not a level which impacts too many people or a lot of property.
And the rain falls down…
This week however the weather has turned against us with a very large rainfall on Tuesday which is forecast to continue until Wednesday morning. This rainfall could dump over 100 millimeters of water over the Saint John river watershed which will quickly raise already high water levels by a significant amount. There is also some rain forecast for Friday and late in the following week as well.
How high will the Saint John go???
The New Brunswick government’s RiverWatch program is predicting a rise of the river in Fredericton to the 7.4 meter level on Wednesday morning and the 8.2 meter level on Thursday morning. If their predictions are accurate, this spring flood would be second highest recorded water level after the 1973 flood in which the Saint John river crested at 8.61 meters. The last significant flooding event in Fredericton (and the only one that I experienced personally) took place in 2005 when the river crested at 7.83 meters. In 2005, Saint Anne’s Point flooded over which caused traffic detour and delays as all vehicles had to detour though downtown in order to access the Westmorland street bridge. House at low elevations in Fredericton were also affected by the floods on street such as Burpee Street and Waterloo Row. Pictures of the 2005 flood can be seen www.ronniecat.com and at webshots.
Flooding beyond Fredericton
The flooding will also impact residents along the entire Saint John river valley as low lying and rural areas such as Maugerville, Jemseg and Sheffield will be severely affected as the water levels rise and access routes and highways are no longer accessible. These areas have had greater flooding and damage in previous flooding events and there is no reason to believe that 2008 will be any different. Fredericton may get the most media coverage but there are a lot of people outside of the city who are fearing the flood.
Tracking the 2008 flood
There are several resources which can be used to monitor the 2008 Saint John flood. The provincial government’s Riverwatch site tracks water levels on a daily basis and provides a two day water level forecast. The site also contains road closures, alerts, historical information on previous floods and photos (including an aerial video) of the 2008 flood.
Environment Canada also has a stream and river monitoring site which tracks in real time river levels.
I also came across an interesting paper on using GIS for decision support in flood scenarios with Fredericton specifically being examined. There is an interesting map on the third page which shows spring flooding areas as well as a hypothetical flooding event if the Mactaquac dam were to ever fail. Interesting scenario planning…
Here’s hoping for the best
Spring flooding is nothing new to the Fredericton area or the Saint John river valley. In fact a lot of people seem to be used to the flooding and refuse to leave their home to escape the possibility of being stranded. Hopefully the river won’t raise as much as forecast and spare property and home owners along the river. It certainly isn’t easy or cheap to pick up the pieces from a flood.
Let’s hope for a long spell of dry weather…
Update (April 30th): The forecast has been revised for the water level of the Saint John river to rise to 8.6 meters which would equal or surpass the historic 1973 flood.
Other web resources for updates and pictures include:
- The city of Fredericton has flood maps for various river levels including the 8.0 meter level and the 8.5 meter level
- Several sites have pictures of the 2008 flood
Update (May 3rd): The Saint John’s water level in Fredericton peaked on 8.35 meters on late in the day on May 1st. Luckily the water levels have quickly come down and now stand at 7.6 meters with a projected decline to the 7.1 meter level on Monday.
Now the cleanup begins….