High rainfall and rising water is increasing flooding fears in some areas of northern Saskatchewan - with levels expected to peak as early as next week.
At Sandy Bay, water levels on the Churchill River are already higher than previous record levels reported in Sept. 2005. Levels are expected to keep rising for as many as three weeks before hitting the expected peak.
In the Churchill River basin, the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency (SWSA) estimates areas along the river near the Manitoba border, including Sandy Bay, have received between 325 and 400 millimetres of rain this season - an amount the SWSA said is about twice as much as normal.
“In general, cumulative rainfall since April 1 is near record,” said a statement issued by the SWSA July 27.
Water levels at Sandy Bay were approaching the 10 metre mark July 24, with the SWSA forecasting a peak of around 10.23 metres either on or near August 4. Last week, the SWSA expected water levels at the community to peak in mid-August.
The SWSA announced that SaskPower has cut water flow into Reindeer Lake, allowing the lake to drop below its full supply level and also allowing outflow at the Whitesand Dam to be reduced. While both moves could curtail flooding in the far north, neither will have much impact on Sandy Bay.
“With rains increasing flow forecasts for location on the Churchill River above Sandy Bay, the reduction in Whitesand Dam outflows will not have an impact on the peak forecasted for Sandy Bay,” reads the SWSA report.
The SWSA has also listed Jan Lake, Amisk Lake and Deschambault Lakes as “[areas] of increasing concern” due to recent high rainfall.
“Our current expectation is for 2017 levels to be surpassed and for levels to approach those observed in 1974,” reads the SWSA report.
Water levels in the Saskatchewan River basin area - which, according to the SWSA, stretches from south of Melfort up to Deschambault Lake, Creighton and Denare Beach - have risen due to high levels of rain. The SWSA states that some areas, including the Denare Beach-Amisk Lake area and Creighton, have received over 400 millimetres of rain since April 1 - nearly half a metre in total rain.
“Northern Saskatchewan has received extremely high cumulative precipitation since April 1, resulting in very high flows and lake levels across the Churchill River and Lower Saskatchewan River basins. In general, cumulative rainfall since April 1, 2020, is near record,” reads a SWSA advisory released July 24.
“Rainfall over an area from Little Bear Lake over to Creighton has recorded more than 400 mm of rainfall since April 1.”
One good sign comes in the next week’s forecast. The nearest Environment Canada weather station to Sandy Bay, located in Pelican Narrows, is anticipating a mostly rain-free week this week, but a chance of showers is anticipated for July 30. The SWSA has seen similar data, saying that rain is expected around the 60th parallel later in the week, further north than any areas currently affected by flooding.