What a Flood Watch meant for Peterborough residents this past weekend

This past weekend, the scene was similar on any given street in Peterborough, Ontario; residents navigated slippery conditions, checking downspouts and chipping away ice-encrusted snow from around nearby sewer drains.

After issuing a Flood Watch message on Friday, January 10th, Otonabee Conservation’s Flood Duty Officer, Neil MacFarlane was also busy this past weekend!

MacFarlane toured the local watercourses in and around the Peterborough area to assess conditions and document any problematic ponding or flooding. 

On January 11, 2020, after a day of significant rainfall, Jackson Creek flows high through downtown Peterborough.

Otonabee Conservation operates a flood forecasting and warning program to help prevent loss of life and reduce damage to property. This is one of our most important responsibilities, as floods have become the most common and most taxing type of disaster faced by area residents, with the potential to cause losses of material assets, cultural, and ecological resources.

As forecasted, rain fell consistently throughout the day on Saturday, January 11th with a considerable amount of water remaining on the surface atop frozen ground.

With considerable rainfall occurring on Jan. 11, 2020, water was seen ponding and remaining on the surface due to the frozen ground underneath.

“The majority of watercourses were running very quickly with increased water levels and rainfall traversing frozen ground conditions,” explained MacFarlane, “However, by early evening, the majority of watercourses that I checked still had volume left within the banks, which could have handled additional runoff and precipitation.” 

An exception was Bear Creek as it traveled around the plaza at the corner of Hilliard Street and Marina Blvd.  The drainage culvert was blocked so the creek was spilling through the parking lot and onto the street.  City staff responded and removed the blockages so that the flow could resume. 

Water spills from Bear Creek onto Marina Blvd. on Saturday, January 11, 2020 as the drainage culvert was blocked.

In East City, fire crews assisted residents with sandbagging around their homes where Curtis Creek exceeded its banks, flooded out a number of yards, and threatened to breach the threshold of doorways and basement windows.

In addition to flooding in some areas, ponding was present along the surface in many low-lying areas, fields, wetlands, and ditches in the region.

As of 6:30pm on Saturday, January 11th, 2020, the rain gauges throughout the Otonabee Region watersheds had recorded 55 – 60 mm.

The rain’s intensity reduced overnight on Saturday and as the temperature dropped, the rain switched to freezing rain; we received a total of 10-15mm of freezing rain overnight. The water levels and flows within headwater and smaller creeks peaked overnight through early Sunday morning as the overland runoff traveled downstream.

As of January 14th, a Watershed Safety statement was issued as watercourses continue to experience abnormally high flows, ice-covered banks, and extremely cold water temperatures. Residents and visitors are asked to stay S.A.F.E. by Staying Away From the Edge of all lakes, canals, rivers, streams, creeks, wetlands, and drainage ditches.   

If you are interested in viewing the water levels and flows at several of our Region’s waterways, you can visit the Water Survey of Canada site at wateroffice.ec.gc.ca for real-time and historical data from hydrometric data stations across the Region. For more flood hazard information or details about the Flood Forecasting and Warning System, visit otonabeeconservation.com.