Swift Current Creek concerns ease after ice jams clear

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City of Swift Current crews are busy installing flood protection devices along the Swift Current Creek in anticipation of higher water levels starting Sunday night and into Monday.

The City of Swift Current's Flood Planning Team is breathing a little easier after ice jams created unexpectedly high water levels in the Swift Current Creek over the weekend.

City crews busily installed a series of flood prevention barriers and made extra sandbags in anticipation of continued high runoff rates, but their concerns were eased when ice dams cleared from the creek.

"I wouldn't say we're out of the woods yet, but the channel that is open now and flowing free will handle what we've got coming at us. And hopefully we won't see any overflow beyond that. However, we will leave the works that we've put up in place until we know for sure that we're out of the woods," Swift Current Fire Department Fire Chief Denis Pilon told Swift Current City Council at their March 17 meeting.

He noted that ice was the major culprit in the water woes.

"The spring thaw came a little bit earlier than we expected, particularly in the high area around the Duncarin Dam. And as a result the dam was filling up over the fill point," Pilon explained.

"Unfortunately, we had a lot of ice jams that occurred because our ice was not eroded. As a result we had some backed up water in the City. That ice is now all left the channel. It's gone and the channel is handling the flows."

During regular meetings regarding the runoff levels, the province agreed to bring in some equipment to help install some temporary dykes.

"We believe that there's still some thaw to come," he said, noting there is still snow in the hills in the area.

Fire Chief Pilon was surprised to see people disregarding the real danger of the fast flowing water and putting themselves in danger during the flooding.

"I actually watched kids run across the ice on the river," he said. "People taking their kids and sitting them up on the icebergs. That's fine if it's parked over on the grass now, where they're not going to fall in the water, but it's actually right in the water area."

He noted that if someone had fallen into the Creek, the Fire Department would not have been able to get there fast enough to save a person from the hypothermia which would quickly drop their body temperature.

"Basically in that water you've got about four minutes and your survival rate is gone. It is that cold."

To discourage curious people from exploring the quickly running creek, the Swift Current Fire Department has declared the Creek "Out of Bounds" as a safety precaution. Persons going out on the ice or into the water will be charged under the Fire Bylaw.

"Please stay away from the Creek. It's extremely dangerous. The ice is slippery and you could easily fall in. We would recommend people very much that they stay away from there."

Over the weekend, water release rates of 1,750 cubic feet per second had been released from the Duncairn Dam Reservoir in order to allow the ice jams to clear.

Organizations: Swift Current City Council, Swift Current Fire Department

Geographic location: Swift Current

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