A water expert says heavy rainfall forecast for southern Alberta could cause damage in some areas, but it doesn't appear as if a repeat of deadly flooding in 2013 is coming.
John Pomeroy, a University of Saskatchewan hydrologist and Canada Research Chair in water resources and climate change, says there's an interesting combination of events taking place.
"We have a very high mountain snowpack for this time of year — one of the highest in decades — and that's because of high winter snowfall and a very cool spring," Pomeroy said in an interview from Canmore, Alta., on Monday. "Then we have a very high forecast of precipitation for the mountains and foothills."
Environment Canada has issued rainfall warnings for between 75 millimetres and 150 millimetres of rain by Wednesday morning in parts of Alberta, including Banff, Calgary and Rocky Mountain House.
Alberta Environment has also issued a flood warning on the Bow River between Banff and Exshaw, and flood watches on the Bow, Elbow and Highwood rivers upstream of Calgary and High River. Both communities were hit hard during the flooding in 2013.
Calgary has issued a high stream flow advisory for the Elbow River and lowered water levels at upstream reservoirs on the Bow and Elbow rivers to make room for potential floodwater.
Pomeroy said people should keep a close eye on the forecast, but he noted that precipitation is currently expected to fall as snow rather than rain in the high mountains.
"So far … this appears to be a colder system than it was in 2013," he said. "It would build up the snowpack instead of forming rapid runoff down to the creeks.
"But there's always a lot of uncertainty with that — it depends on getting the air temperature within one or two degrees exactly right, so it could be wrong."
Pomeroy said much would depend on what happened Monday night and Tuesday morning.
"From everything I can see, it doesn't look like it will be a 2013-type event, though there's still a possibility of damaging floods in localized areas," he said.
Pomeroy added that towns and cities are much more prepared this year than they were nine years ago, when floods left at least five people dead and caused billions of dollars in damage across southern Alberta.