Severe summer storm strands motorists, causes flooding
Published Thursday, July 12, 2012 8:51AM MDT
Last Updated Thursday, July 12, 2012 6:38PM MDT
A severe storm early Thursday morning brought a deluge of rain and hail causing flooding and other damage, sending some Edmonton motorists scrambling to escape waist high water on Whitemud Drive, and causing road closures that lasted hours.
A storm cel made its way through the Edmonton area starting around 1 a.m. The force of the rain was too much for storm sewers on the lower levels of Whitemud Drive, which overflowed creating an impassable pool of water on many parts of the road.
"The first of two severe storms moved through around 1 a.m.," said CTV Weather Specialist Craig Larkins.
"We got large hail, heavy dounwpours right across the city and in the Capital Region, and lightning. A second wave hit between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m., bringing with it another round of hail and heavy rain."
Unprepared for the water, the storm left some motorists stranded, forcing them to abandon their vehicles and wade out into the water.
One man driving home from work said he hit the flood of water on the Whitemud near 111 Street. After his motor stalled, he left his car half submerged and made his way to higher ground.
The flooding backed up traffic on the Whitemud for the better part of Thursday morning forcing partial and total closures of the road.
There were total road closures in effect for most of the morning in south Edmonton.
"The sags in the Whitemud can flood when you get very intense storms like we did last night," said Chris Ward with drainage services with the city.
"Is it a problem? No. It was designed in such a way to handle that. Last night obviously was a very intense and large amount of rain over a short period of time."
Most routes were re-opened by noon Thursday.
The city says it worked as fast it could after floods closed down major roadways and officials say storm infrastructure is in place to handle regular rainfall amounts for the Edmonton region and that Thursday’s storm was a rare occurrence.
“It’s a very infrequent event,” Ward said.
“You only design for a certain size and you allow for the fact that you could get a larger rainfall event that you design for and what happens in that case? The Whitemud floods.”
The city said it received 329 trouble calls related to the storm, everything from flooded basements to streets and manhole covers.
The storm is being compared to one in 2004 that dumped 150 millimeters of rain on Edmonton in less than an hour. Since then, the city has added dry ponds and relief sewers.
The city says anyone whose basement may have flooded due to the storm can call 311.
Crews will be sent to check the system in the area after dealing with road emergencies, however homeowners are responsible for dealing with flooded basements. The city says residents should check electrical systems, appliances and turn off all main switches in the event of a flooded basement.
Residents are encouraged to report flooded basements to see if they qualify for a subsidy towards the installation of blackflow valves to prevent future flooding.
Park rangers are also assessing damages that may have been caused in the river valley from the storm. The city asks anyone who comes across fallen trees or branches on trails to call 311.
Fire officials had additional staff on hand to rescue any motorists stranded by the high water and say they received a number of storm-related calls Thursday morning.
"We had over 70 calls in a very short period of time," said Fire Chief Ken Block.
"The first one related to the storm came in at about 3 p.m."
Block says about 40 of the 70 calls they received were related to the storm. The calls included at least 20 rescues of drivers and passengers of vehicles stranded on Whitemud Drive.
"We were tapped out at a couple of times where all of our crews were out at different events or responding to events," Block said.
Fire officials have confirmed two house fires were caused by lightning strikes resulting in damage of just over $100,000 to each, but crews contained the scenes quickly.
The owner of one of the homes affected by the lightning had already moved out of the building.
"I sold the house and now I don't know what's going to happen," said Ace Couture. "Obviously [it's] not a good situation."
EPCOR is saying that fifteen circuits were affected overnight by the storm, cutting off power to all parts of the city.
While most power was restored by 8:30 a.m., some small outages continued mid-morning.
South Edmonton was hardest hit by the storm. In that area, a number of basements, streets, and a parking lot were flooded.
There are also reports of flooding in Southgate Mall and in the parking lot at South Edmonton Common.
The storm caused damage to 12 Edmonton Public schools as well. The school board says the damages are estimated at between $400,000 to $500,000.
Mill Woods Recreation Centre was also damaged. The city says the centre will remain closed until at least Monday as a result of the storm, with the exception of arena space.
Larkins says current weather conditions means another severe storm could be expected this week.
"Because it's so hot out there, that's all the ingredients for more of these storms to develop Thursday night into Friday," Larkins said.
With files from Bill Fortier