Muskoka To-DAILY

Bracebridge and MNR share tips on spring melt, river, high water risks

BRACEBRIDGE — Winter is nearing its end and temperatures are slowly climbing – in the daytime if not the night.

And while that may be good for sap producers and maple syrup makers, Mother Nature has to shed her white coat, which means new natural challenges.

So, with spring fast approaching and flooding in low lying areas there is a potential risk due to melting snow and spring rain fall.

Flooding can also be experienced during extreme rainfall events during the summer months.

Bracebridge, like many other southern Ontario municipalities, experienced extreme flooding in April 2013. The community sustained approximately $2,000,000 million dollars in public property damage and extensive damage to private property, says a news release from the town Monday.

They say the Ministry of Natural Resources has reported that the April 2013 flood was the equivalent of a 1-in-100 year flood event with high water levels inundating roads, houses and property. In some cases, water depths exceeded that which could be safely passed by vehicles. In many cases, roads and culverts were washed out creating dangerous travelling conditions.

Emergency Management Ontario (EMO) recommends that residents prepare themselves and their properties in advance of the spring freshet if they live in flood prone areas.

The following information, together with supplementary information found on the Town’s website, provides valuable suggestions to assist property owners to prepare for the spring thaw:

Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR)

As part of their on-going responsibilities for the management of area watersheds, the Ministry of Natural Resources:

• Monitors water levels in major Muskoka lakes and rivers, and regulates dams as appropriate to runoff conditions.

• Monitors the snowpack across the Muskoka watershed to determine snow conditions and water content within the snowpack. The water content data assists the MNR in forecasting the melt water potential.

• Conducts a daily “weather watch” using data collected from Environment Canada, the Weather Network and the MNR’s Surface Water Monitoring Centre (SWMC). This information together with soil and snow pack water content data is run through a computer model to predict water runoff volumes, river and lake levels.

• MNR District Office uses the computer generated data to determine if “Flood Watch” or “Flood Warning” media releases are to be issued to municipalities and the media. A “Flood Watch” may be issued by the MNR when the potential for flooding exists within specific watercourses and municipalities. A “Flood Warning” is issued when flooding is imminent or occurring.

• Provides daily updates to effected municipalities and Emergency Management Ontario regarding potential flooding and flood conditions.

• Attends the Town’s Emergency Management Control Group meetings. 

Town of Bracebridge

To support the activities of the MNR and to manage impacts from the spring thaw, the Town of Bracebridge:

• Responds to MNR flood advisory information.

• Provides updates to Emergency Management Ontario on flood conditions.

• Issues flood information notices to Bracebridge residents via the Town’s website and media contacts.

• Maintains contact with the MNR and private energy generators who control dam structures.

• Assists with the provision of sand bags during an emergency.

• Monitors road conditions for flooding.

• Erects flood warning signs.

• Repairs washed out roads and bridges.

• Convenes the Town Emergency Control Group as required which includes representation of the Town, MNR, OPP, EMO, District of Muskoka, Salvation Army and other agencies as required.

• Declares an emergency, as necessary.

• Opens emergency shelters to accommodate displaced individuals. 

Actions by Property Owners

As weather conditions and snow melt can vary significantly from day to day, it is best to be prepared in order to protect your property and home. The following information and suggestions are provided for consideration by property owners:

Monitor Forecasted Weather Conditions and Temperatures

Flooding can occur quickly as snow begins to melt in the spring of the year. A “good” slow spring melt can occur with temperatures slightly above 0oC during the day and sub-zero temperatures overnight. These conditions result in the gradual release of water from the snowpack over an extended period of time. Localized flooding may still occur.

A quick flood can occur if warm weather conditions during the day continue through the night resulting in continuous melt and runoff. The longer the period of continuous above zero temperatures the more likely more significant flooding will occur.

Serious flooding can occur when warm weather is experienced day and night accompanied with significant rainfall. This is the condition that was experienced in the spring of 2013.

Property Preparedness

Prior to the beginning of the snow melt, consider the following if you believe your property or buildings maybe subject to flooding:

• Relocate items of value above the flood level. This may mean items in your basement, garage, shed, yard, boathouse or other structures.

• Check your sump pump to ensure that it is working. Do you need an auxiliary pump to accommodate high water flows?

• Do you have an adequate supply of sand bags and sand to build a dyke around your house? Do you know material suppliers? Have you considered portable or reusable water-inflated dams?

• Access to a portable generator in the event of a power failure.

• Alternative accommodation in the event that you are forced to leave, such as friends or family.

• Is your electrical panel above the flood elevation? Know where to shut off main electrical feed to the building to avoid an electrical shock or electrocution. Do not attempt to shut off electricity if any water is present. Water and live electrical wires can be lethal.

• Securely tie off your dock to the land.

• Remove lawnmower, snowmobiles, ATV’s, boats, lawn furniture, etc. from flood prone areas.

• Listen to the radio and television for emergency information. The MNR or Town may issue high water safety bulletins, flood advisories, flood warnings and emergency statements. Follow directions for your safety. 

Areas that are Prone to Flooding

• Drawing No.1 illustrates public roadways that experienced various degrees of flooding during the 1 in 100 year flood event in April 2013. Other areas on private roads and seasonally maintained public roads may not have been recorded but may have experienced flooding.

• Drawing No. 2 illustrates the findings of the December 2000 Flood Level Forecasting Procedure on the MuskokaRiver prepared for the Town of Bracebridge. It illustrates properties within the 100 year flood plain along the North and South branches of the MuskokaRiver and the main river from Ecclestone Drive westerly to LakeMuskoka. 

For more information on preparing for the spring thaw and responding to a flood situation can be found on the Town of Bracebridge’s website:

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