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Flood action report recommends improved communication

Flood impact - An “After Action Report” on the June 23 flood event in Mapleton Township. provides a number of recommendations, including measures aimed at improving the flow of information, for responding to similar incidents in the future.  Advertiser file photo

 

Flood action report recommends improved communication

by Patrick Raftis

MAPLETON - Measures to improve the flow of information are among the recommendations of an “After Action Report” on the June 23 flood in the township.

However, the report also praised local officials for their efficient response.

“This unprecedented rainfall event and subsequent flash flooding of many areas of the township required a reactive and quick emergency response,” stated the report from Wellington County emergency management co-ordinator Linda Dickson.

“Efficient actions from the Township Control Group and staff along with supporting agencies allowed normal municipal operations to resume within a few days of the flood waters receding.”

The report, presented at the Aug. 22 Mapleton council meeting, notes “significant rainfall” during the early morning of June 23 resulted in widespread flooding throughout the township, including Drayton.

A declaration of an emergency, made by Mayor Neil Driscoll on June 23, lasted for seven days.

“Flood forecasting data from the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) recorded a one-day rainfall total exceeding any levels since 1950,” the report states.

It also notes there was little warning about the extent of the rain that would ultimately fall in just a few hours.

“The rainfall amounts that fell during this event were not noted in any weather forecast leading up to the event,” states the report.

“Forecast messages received just before midnight on June 22 showed possibility of severe thunderstorms but no rainfall warnings were noted.”

Through the event, both the Conestogo River and Moorefield Creek were moving heavy volumes.

“While there were no structures affected by the Moorefield creek, these volumes did contribute to the flows in the Conestogo Dam and the subsequent response by GRCA staff at the dam,” the report notes.

Throughout the day on June 23, the township’s Municipal Emergency Control Group met frequently to review and assess information from public works, the fire department, Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA) and many supporting agencies, including the GRCA, Ministry of Municipal Affairs, public health and Wellington County.

Numerous homes and businesses in downtown Drayton and along Wood Street/Elm Street experienced flooding, primarily in basements.

The fire department along with Christian Aid Ministries assisted by pumping out basements. Township staff worked with hydro and gas utility companies to disconnect services from many buildings in Drayton.

A bypass from the Drayton Wastewater Pumping Station was necessary beginning in the early afternoon of June 23. The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change was notified of the emergency bypass.

The drinking water system was not affected, but as a precaution Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health requested additional sampling throughout the weekend and into the following week. A media release about the sampling advised those on private wells to be cautious and to test.

Many roads were flooded and/or washed out, and bridges and culverts were damaged, requiring extensive repairs to the township’s road system.

Those included a slope failure on 3rd Line and damage to the bridge abutment on 3rd Line east of Wellington Road  12.

Roads staff spent the weekend assessing and repairing roads and by June 26 all roads were re-opened, except for two which had extensive damage.

Glen Allan was significantly impacted by flooding, including extensive damage to Glen Allan park.

A debriefing on the situation, involving GRCA, township and county emergency management officials was held on July 26. The group noted the things that went well during the incident included:

- the flood warning maps developed for the township were an asset;

- the fire department took the information from the mapping and was able to conduct a door knock campaign to warn residents and business in the area of potential Level 3 flooding;

- township staff was able to assess potential impacts to infrastructure and take appropriate actions;

- the GRCA captured high water marks to confirm extent of flooding (this will provide good data for future flood events);

- the Control Group exercise in the fall of 2016 and public information session in March 2017 were good preparation tools for this event;

- internal communications were handled well;

- the township received positive feedback from businesses and residents about the response and information they received during the flood (on June 26 staff delivered damage assessment forms and spoke with residents and business owners);

- emergency information was handled locally and worked well;

- social media proved to be an important emergency information tool; and

- the new stilling basin at the Conestogo Dam functioned as designed, as the event involved the second highest discharge from Conestogo Dam since it went into operation in 1958 (discharge reached 400 cubic metres per second, which is second only to an event in 1974 at 450m3/s.)

Officials noted there is a need to document the extent of the flooding from the June 23 event.

Good information was received from utility companies regarding shut-off ocations and this information should be mapped and included in the Flood Emergency Response Plan for future reference, officials stated.

The report also points out flood levels in Glen Allan were more extensive than seen in the past.

Among the recommendations in the report is that the GRCA look into the possibility of sending information from its own rain gauges directly to township flood coordinators.

A lag time on the gauge information on the GRCA website was noted by township staff.

“The site, while very useful, did not show in real time and because of lag time it was difficult ... to determine where the actual river flows would be on the ground at a specific point in time. GRCA will investigate to see if this can be refined.”

It was noted that the actual flows recorded in the Conestogo River through Drayton were considerably higher than model flows for the Level 3 flood that was experienced.

Officials questioned to what extent recent dredging of the river provided additional flow support during the flood. The GRCA will be investigating this further.

The authority will also inspect a flap gate near Dippel’s Family Garage on Wellington Street in Drayton. There are three outlets along this stretch and questions were raised as to how effectively they worked on June 23.

GRCA noted in other communities with dykes, slide gates provided a secondary means of preventing river back-up through drainage works.

Township staff will also share road washout information with GRCA staff for flood data reference.

Township staff recommended investigating a long-term plan to address waste water during future flood events.

Skip the exercise

Having been through a very real emergency, local officials recommended skipping a mandatory mock disaster exercise this year.

“I do want to just indicate that, through the province, we are hoping to use the flooding as our emergency exercise for 2017,” Dickson told council.

Mayor Neil Driscoll said, “On behalf of myself and Mapleton I want to thank Wellington County and yourself for being there as resource.” He noted county support was “just a phone call away for us.”

Driscoll added, “It wasn’t a great experience, but it was good to see that everything was under control.”

The mayor asked Dickson if municipal officials could do more to be prepared for severe weather warnings like the one issued on Aug. 11, the opening night of the Drayton Fair, when a tornado touched down in nearby Hawkesville.

“It’s a good thing the fair board was prepared enough to stop people from coming in,” Driscoll said. “Is there any way we can help them to be more prepared to help our citizens?”

Dickson responded, “There are notification systems out there that you can look at and purchase and put into place to auto-dial and contact people. Are they 100 per cent reliable? No, because in a lot of cases you’re relying on people to provide their cell phone number.”

However, she noted, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is looking at requirements for a warning system “that could be pushed out to people” through their cell phones and other devices.  

In the meantime, she said, “All we can do is just monitor the weather as closely as we can.”

Dickson added she felt Drayton Fair officials “made the right call” in response to the severe weather warnings on Aug. 11.

“Don’t allow people onto the grounds.”

Fire Chief Rick Richardson pointed out sirens, which could be employed to alert citizens in an emergency, are already in place.

“It’s available. Both Moorefield and Drayton have them,” he said.

Driscoll replied, “That’s a discussion for the future then.”

September 8, 2017

 
 

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