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Ice jams pose risk in New Brunswick

Risk of flooding increases when temperatures rise and snowpack melts
Risk of flooding increases when temperatures rise and snowpack melts

Andrea Stockton, staff writer

April 15, 2011 — Authorities in New Brunswick warn residents to prepare for possible ice jams, which could result in flooding in low-lying areas.

Miramichi is one area prone to flooding
Miramichi is one area prone to flooding

Winter storms were relentless across the Maritimes this year and some parts of New Brunswick felt the greatest impact. Record snow levels were reported in Moncton, which had emergency officials on high alert for the spring season.

While more snow doesn't necessarily mean more flooding, the province began taking safety precautions early on.

Karl Wilmot is the public safety officer for New Brunswick's Emergency Measures Organization (EMO). He says a significant spring flood depends on the type of weather the season brings. A gradual snow melt would be the ideal scenario, but a sudden rise in temperatures can lead to dangerous flood levels in low-lying areas.

So far, the province has been able to avoid any severe damage.

“The flood situation is stable at this point in time,” says Wilmot. “We have water levels that are rising very gradually.”

Water levels rising gradually in rivers and streams
Water levels rising gradually in rivers and streams

Although conditions have been favourable up until this point, things like heavy rain and warming temperatures could cause problems.

The same system that hit the U.S. Mid-West is now moving its way into Ontario and New Brunswick this weekend. Heavy rain and precipitation will hover over the Atlantic province over the weekend.

“So the main pre-occupation at this point in time is ice jams that could or could not form and that's what we're watching for the most. We're hoping for little bit higher temperatures later on this week to get that floe moving and to have that ice break up and alleviate that problem,” notes Wilmot.

Forecasters predict near to slightly below average precipitation this spring and near normal temperatures despite the deeper than average snowpack. Still, authorities will be keeping a close eye on things as temperatures continue to climb. People living or working along streams, tributaries and rivers should be on alert for ice movement and the possibility of ice-jam formation resulting in rapid water-level increases.

“A drier than average spring might still have flooding if the temperatures suddenly spiked so that we had rapid snowmelt and just as the rivers crested the only big rainstorm of the entire season happened to make matters worse,” warns Bryn Jones, a meteorologist at The Weather Network.

Meanwhile, the New Brunswick government plans on reviewing its response to the widespread flooding that caused millions of dollars in damage last December.

Premier David Alward says the province is also launching a two-year program to strengthen the disaster response in Charlotte County -- the area that suffered the most damage from the flooding.

According to Alward, families are still recovering from the disaster. It's estimated that around 75 per cent of the claims from people who applied for government financial assistance have gone through.

To stay up-to-date on the weather in your area, head to our Canadian Cities Index. You can also tune into The Weather Network on TV where the local forecast comes up every 10 minutes on the 10's.

With files from Jill Colton and New Brunswick Telegraph Journal

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