Communities cleaning up after floods, evacuations, blowdowns, washouts, power outages

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

After one of the driest springs in recent memory, all hell broke loose on Monday evening, June 11. After about 30 hours of heavy rain. Mooney Creek was the first (as usual) to burst its banks, forcing the closure of Sawridge Road west of Slave Lake. Eating Creek (east of town) wasn’t far behind, forcing the evacuation of Winkler Estates later that night. The M.D. declared a state of local emergency at 1:23 a.m. on June 12, after observing things getting steadily worse and the rain continuing heavy and unlikely to let up. Eating Creek, living up to its name, ate a chunk out of the newly-paved Poplar Lane in its rush to find some alternate route to low ground.

In Slave Lake, low-lying areas of the northeast part of town were flooded and the hospital was threatened by Sawridge Creek. This was in spite of the flood diversion channel doing exactly what it was designed to do. The ‘spillway’, as people call it, looked to be diverting at least half the creek’s flow around town. Yet the creek was still dangerously high through the community, and carved out big chunks of bank. It will likely force the town to relocate sections of the paved trail along the creek.

Meanwhile, at about supper time on June 11, Marten Creek overflowed its banks and started filling the lower part of the hamlet. This continued unabated for several hours, by which time emergency officials were strongly urging residents in those properties to find somewhere else to spend the night. Several basements were flooded.

All of this was happening under an onslaught of heavy west winds, with gusts (so said the weather people) of up to 90 kilometres per hour. However hard those gusts blew, it was enough to knock over or snap off many trees in the area – a few of which damaged property. It likely also was the cause of most power outages, which started on the afternoon of June 11, and were still going on well into the next day, with large parts of Slave Lake and the Southshore communities without electricity.

The scene on the lake was wild, with huge, dirty breakers and flying spindrift. The wind caused the operators of the construction barge at Widewater to prudently seek shelter in the lee of Nine Mile Point for the duration. Waves damaged the temporary dock area serving the barge.

At Gilwood Golf Club, one estimate was around a thousand trees blown over. Management was asking for help last week in dealing with the clean-up.

Town of Slave Lake, M.D. of Lesser Slave River and the provincial highway maintenance contractor had equipment at bridges quite quickly on the Monday afternoon. A fleet of hired vacuum trucks were also seen to be going pretty much non-stop through the night and all the next day. According to town manager Brian Vance, it was “touch and go,” but as far as he’s aware the action prevented major sewer backups in that part of town, such as happened in 2011.

The floodwater filling up Lesser Slave Lake didn’t do much for the quality of drinking water in Slave Lake. Doug Baird of the town said last week the consistence of water entering the town’s plant from the river intake looked like “a milkshake.” The good news: samples taken at the same time at the site of the new raw water access off Wagner were much cleaner.

Getting back to the highways, Mooney Creek breached Hwy. 2 sometime during the early hours of June 12, forcing its closure. This cut off access altogether between the Southshore communities and Slave Lake, meaning many people couldn’t get to work on time Tuesday morning. By about 8:00 a.m., one lane had been opened and vehicles were being piloted through. But in the morning Hwy. 88 north of Slave Lake was closed due to a culvert washout. It was fixed and reopened by the afternoon of June 14.

Hwy. 2 in the Kinuso area was closed in three spots mid-week, due to the Swan River running over the highway.

There is undoubtedly a lot more to the story of the floods and wind storm of June 2018. This is what we’ve been able to glean as of press time from official reports, council meetings, personal observation and unofficial discussions. There is a lot of clean-up to be done and costs to figure out.

M.D. pumps at work in Marten Beach.

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