Chatham-Kent dodges another flood bullet

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A crew works to fill sandbags on the river side of the Union Gas property on Keil Drive in Chatham Wednesday.
A crew works to fill sandbags on the river side of the Union Gas property on Keil Drive in Chatham Wednesday.

Chatham-Kent avoided another potential flood situation as the forecasted rain for Wednesday afternoon didn’t materialize.

Jason Wintermute of the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority said Environment Canada had predicted up to 15 millimetres of rain Wednesday, but in reality it merely drizzled during the afternoon and rained lightly through the evening.

“Without the rain, we don’t have the associated snowmelt,” he said. “We’re really not anticipating much of anything in the near future.”

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The forecast calls for more rain on Friday, but it’s not anticipated to be substantial. Plus the evening temperatures are expected to drop to, or below, freezing.

And we are forecast to have more sub-zero temperatures into early next week.

“The sun will continue to cause some snow to melt, but because it’s cooling off in the evening, we’re getting a nice, slow thaw. That’s very helpful in reducing the flooding potential,” Wintermute said.

Meanwhile, an Intrepid General crew spent the day filling sandbags and preparing the waterfront of Union Gas’ Keil Drive offices in case the Thames were to rise rapidly.

Andrea Stass, Union Gas spokesperson, said the company made the decision based on the potential for flooding.

“We’re working closely with the municipality of Chatham-Kent and the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority to stay informed on the issue,” she said. “We’re being proactive.”

The sandbagging, with pumps on hand in case they’re needed, is to protect two buildings that are close to the river. One distributes power to the main office building, and another holds a copy company that provides document services to Union Gas.

“The risk of flooding is there. We’ve had a lot of snow. We’re hoping for a slow melt and minimal rain, but we’re planning for the worst,” Stass said.

She added that in the 15 years she’s been at Union Gas, she doesn’t recall the company taking this level of precaution. Also, she said she’s seen the water rise as far up the riverbank as a walking path that meanders along the river, but not up to the buildings.

In terms of ice depth on the river, Wintermute thinks as much of half the reported 12 inches that covered the river in February is already gone.

“When I went down to the mouth (Wednesday), it was actually thawed at the shoreline. We couldn’t get onto the ice,” he said. “It looked to me like something had fallen through on the river. The quality of the ice isn’t going to be very strong.”

Wintermute is hopeful the slow thaw will continue and most snow will have melted away before the next substantial rainfall. But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t see some flooding, as there is a lot of snow on the ground north of London.

“So much depends on the weather. There’s still a substantial amount of stored water in the Thames River watershed north of London,” he said. “Even through our own snow may be gone and our ice melts away gradually, a big snow melt with associated rains north of London can still generate flooding down here.”

The crew at Union Gas clears snow from around one of the outbuildings on the Keil Drive property.
The crew at Union Gas clears snow from around one of the outbuildings on the Keil Drive property.

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