Thames River Flood Preparedness Underway for 2015
“Reduced Risk of Flooding if Forecast Holds”
The risk of Thames River flooding this spring is reduced but still present based on weather forecasts according to water management staff at the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority (LTVCA) and its Ice Management Committee. Those who live and work along the river should be prepared for the possibility of flooding this spring. Details as to how to personally prepare for a flood and emergency contacts are listed at the end of this article. Residents of the region had become somewhat accustomed to mild winters with little snow and ice accumulation until last winter’s extreme cold brought back the possibility of ice jam flooding. With the combination of thick river ice, more ice in Lake St. Clair, and a large volume of water stored in the snowpack, there is a greater chance of flooding. Whether the Thames River will see flooding is largely dependent on the weather during the upcoming melt period. A sudden warm-up accompanied by rainfall, could produce enough flow in the river to cause flooding. There is also enough ice on the river to form ice jams, if the right flow conditions are created by the spring melt.
Flooding can occur, or worsen from ice jamming, when water backs up behind the blocked ice. The community of Lighthouse Cove is particularly susceptible to ice jam flooding. Chatham and Thamesville can also experience higher water levels should an ice jam form. In 2001 and 2011, Lighthouse Cove suffered ice jam related flooding. In 1985, an ice jam caused flooding of 14,000 acres downstream of Chatham. Currently, there is more ice at the mouth and about the same amount of ice upstream on the Thames as in 2001 and 1985, and about twice as much as there was in 2011. The weather forecast over the next several weeks suggests a gradual melt similar to last year. If that occurs, conditions should be similar to 2014. The forecast is looking optimistic, however the risk of flooding may still exist for the community of Lighthouse Cove.
Conservation Authorities control, monitor and warn of flooding:
Ontario’s Conservation Authorities top priorities are watershed strategies and management, and flooding and erosion protection. The Lower Thames Valley and Upper Thames River Conservation Authorities coordinate water management efforts on the Thames River year round including flood control, flood monitoring and flood warning. Floodplain Regulations also prevent new homes and businesses from developing in areas at risk of flooding.
Flood control dams and diversion channels have been built in the upper river basin as well as in the lower Thames region to protect lives and property. For many years however, there has been a belief that the operation of the Fanshawe Dam north of London increases downstream flooding. In fact, the primary purpose of Fanshawe Dam and Reservoir is to assist in flood control efforts to reduce flood damage in the City of London. For most of the year, the amount of water released from the reservoir is the same as the amount of water entering from upstream. During a flood event, less water is released than comes into the reservoir, which results in the reservoir gradually filling up as the extra water is stored. After the flood, the stored water is gradually released. Some flooding may still occur but the flood peaks (highest flood levels) downstream may be reduced by five to 50 per percent, depending on the nature of the event (volume of water and duration). In the lower Thames, the Indian/McGregor Creek system has several smaller dams and a diversion channel to the Thames River, which effectively perform together to protect areas of south Chatham from severe river and creek flooding. Dyking along the lower reaches of the river protects properties from flooding downstream of Chatham. These investments in flood control have more than paid for themselves over the years during flood situations.
The Ice Management Committee met with LTVCA staff on March 5. This Committee is a group of individuals including the Chair and Vice-chair of the LTVCA, and representatives from the flood prone Municipality of Chatham-Kent and the Town of Lakeshore. In consultation with LTVCA staff, they meet as necessary to discuss the best options for managing the ice on the lower Thames River and its mouth into Lake St. Clair. This is to reduce the impact of flooding, based on current scientific information including ice and snowpack measurements and historical data. Ice breaking on the Thames has been considered but would have little effect unless the ice can move out into the lake at Lighthouse Cove. Currently, Lake St. Clair has over 16 inches of ice at the mouth of the river, providing no outlet for the Thames River ice. Municipal Flood Coordinator staff from Lakeshore and Chatham-Kent also met on March 2nd with LTVCA staff to discuss flood preparedness.
Where can you find the latest information on watershed conditions?
The Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority will be monitoring watershed conditions and issuing flood safety bulletins as necessary to the media, municipalities and other agencies. These bulletins may be Normal, Watershed Conditions Statements (with two variations: “Water Safety” and “Flood Outlook”), Flood Watches or Flood Warnings. Up to date bulletins and watershed conditions will also be regularly posted on the LTVCA website www.ltvca.ca and Facebook. A Flood Contingency Plan is in place in cooperation with local municipalities and emergency response agencies.
What should you do if you are at risk of flooding?
For residents in flood prone areas, the most effective method of reducing flood damages is to prepare a plan and carry it out if necessary. Each flooding situation is unique and therefore every person’s response to a flood event should be planned well in advance. Steps should be taken before the flood, when the flood warning comes, during a flood, and after a flood. The Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority has provided a publication entitled
Personal Flood Emergency Plans. It is available for download on their website at www.ltvca.ca.
The Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority is a watershed-based partner, working with the local community, providing services and information to efficiently protect and enhance the environment for present and future generations. The LTVCA has over 50 years of experience in protecting life and property, and protecting and restoring habitat in partnership with its 10 member municipalities. Its area of jurisdiction lies over the watersheds of all streams, which drain into the Thames River from the Village of Delaware, to Lake St. Clair. Its southern boundary has jurisdiction over the watersheds of all streams which drain into Lake Erie, from the Talbot Creek watershed in the east, to the Two Creeks watershed in the west. Its total area covers over 3,275 square kilometres (1,264 square miles) in southwestern Ontario and is home to over 120,000 people. The LTVCA is one of 36 Conservation Authorities in Ontario.
For further information and emergency contacts:
Town of Lakeshore
519 728-2488 (You will be directed to the pager for after hours emergencies.)
After hours non-emergency Police
Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority
Water Management Supervisor
519 354-7310 ext.227
519 354-7310 ext.224
Personal Flood Emergency Plans
Before the Flood
1. Contact local authorities to find out if your home or business is located in a flood prone area.
2. Learn about your municipality’s emergency plan: warnings, evacuation routes and locations for emergency shelters.
3. Keep valuable documents and irreplaceable items in a secure and dry location.
4. Plan and practice a flood evacuation route with your family. Ask a relative or friend to be the family contact in case your family is separated during a flood. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address and contact number for this individual.
5. Family pets should be relocated ahead of time to a friend or family member located outside of the flood prone area to ensure one less thing to worry about during the event.
6. Post emergency contact numbers at all telephones.
7. Pack an emergency kit that can be accessed easily and carried quickly in case of evacuation. Include any necessary medication, blankets, extra clothing and flashlights.
8. Listen to local radio stations that will carry flood alerts.
9. Have a battery powered radio on hand.
10. Inform local authorities about any special needs i.e. elderly, bedridden or disabled individuals in the residence.
11. Secure or remove lawn furniture.
12. Install a battery powered sump pump which can continue to work in the event that hydro goes out.
13. Keep emergency lighting, sandbags, and gasoline powered pumps ready.
14. Have boots or hip waders on hand.
When the Flood Warning Comes
1. Move pets, livestock, and feed to higher ground.
2. Disconnect and move electric motors.
3. Turn off gas and hydro.
4. Roll up rugs and move furniture to higher levels.
5. Find temporary storage for freezer contents.
6. Store drinking water in closed containers
During a Flood
1. Do not touch electrical appliances or outlets and do not go into the basement / crawl space as gas build-up or electrical hazards may be present.
2. Do not walk through fast moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
3. If advised to evacuate, move quickly to safety in case the route becomes cut off. Ensure that all family pets are taken out of the area as well if not already relocated ahead of time.
4. Allow flood water into basements to equalize external water pressure on basement walls and floors which otherwise may cause serious structural damage.
5. Extra care should be taken when driving in fast moving or deep water.
After a Flood
1. Read or listen to local media for emergency instructions on seeking aid, medical care and ways in which to help yourself and the community recover.
2. Do not eat food that has come in contact with flood water. Similarly, drugs and medicines that have been in contact with flood water or have lost labels should be disposed of immediately.
3. If water source is from a well, get your well checked and your water tested.
4. Drugs or medicines should be taken to a pharmacy to be destroyed if contaminated by flood waters.
5. Use flashlights to enter dark, flooded buildings – do not use lanterns and candles which could ignite combustibles.
6. All materials should be discarded through municipal solid waste removal where possible or taken to a commercial waste facility.
7. Particular effort should be made to remove all filth that might, in warm weather, serve as a breeding ground for flies or other disease vectors.
8. No attempt should be made to operate any electrical appliances until the wiring in your home or building has been inspected and found safe.
9. Three main hazards exist from domestic or other heating systems following flood damage: explosion, suffocation, and fire. Take every precaution to ensure that the heating system is safe before resuming its use.