Are we ready for the next natural disaster?

June 2017

Capital Ward got off lightly during a spring that had all the ingredients for a major flood. By the time the heavy rains of late April and early May hit the region, the “spring freshet”, or melting of accumulated winter snow and ice, had already passed in the Rideau River catchment area. While the waters of the Rideau lapped at many doorsteps, it caused no major damage to city infrastructure or property.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for many communities along the Ottawa River. Slow-moving weather systems brought sustained, heavy rain just when the river’s northern watershed was reaching the peak of its spring freshet. We all know what followed.

With the benefit of hindsight, there is much we can learn from this and other past floods.

First, never say, “It can’t happen here.” Major floods can happen anywhere — if not from the annual freshet, then from flash floods following intense rain. And in a changing climate where each degree of warming carries seven percent more humidity, we can expect more frequent, extreme local rainfalls, and a higher volume of water brought to specific areas. We are all exposed to a greater flood risk than has historically been the case.

While residents of the Glebe are not likely to be at significant risk from river flooding, there are low-lying areas and pockets of the community that have been affected in the past — and will be affected again — by isolated flash flooding, Many of us also have friends and loved ones in more flood-prone areas.