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Flood risk low as winter remains at bay

In an effort to clear up possible confusion surrounding their flood alert terminology, the Grand River Conservation Authority and other conservation authorities across the province has updated those terms, effective Feb. 15. The GRCA issues three levels of flood messages, and the change applies to t

Last updated on May 04, 23

Posted on Feb 10, 12

3 min read

In an effort to clear up possible confusion surrounding their flood alert terminology, the Grand River Conservation Authority and other conservation authorities across the province has updated those terms, effective Feb. 15.
The GRCA issues three levels of flood messages, and the change applies to the first two levels. The first was previously known as a High Water Safety Bulletin but it is now called a Watershed Condition Statement and it is further sub-divided into two categories: water safety statements about possible danger from melting ice or unsafe banks, and flood outlook statements which provide early notice about the potential for flooding.
The second level of warning was previously called a Flood Advisory but is now a Flood Watch. This is issued if flooding is a possibility in specific watercourses or municipalities, and emergency services and individual landowners in those flood-prone areas should be prepared.

The third level, Flood Warning, remains unchanged. This is the most serious type of message and is issued when flooding is imminent or already occurring.
“In everyday language a bulletin seems more important than an advisory, but in our flood message language it was reversed,” said GRCA communications manager Dave Schultz of why the changes were made.
Schultz was also a member of the committee that spearheaded the changes, which have been in the works for about a year.

NO RISK HERE A lack of snow and ice this winter means the flood risk remains low along the Grand River watershed, including the West Montrose Covered Bridge. The GRCA has also updated its flood terminology, effective Feb. 15.

The new terminology falls in line with that used by other weather agencies, such as Environment Canada and the Weather Network, which use “watches” and “warnings” for severe weather such as tornadoes or winter storm warnings.

Monitoring weather and flood conditions is a shared responsibility of conservation authorities and Ministry of Natural Resources, but prior to the changes, some conservation authorities used different terms for the same types of messages, which led to some confusion.

“We want to clarify the whole system by going to the language that people are accustomed to seeing,” said Schultz.

In 2011 the GRCA issued eight watershed condition statements (formerly known as bulletins); five flood watches (formerly known as advisories); and seven flood warnings, the majority of which were related to the snow melt periods from January to March, but two warnings were the result of the heavy rainfall in November and December.

So far in 2012 the agency has issued two flood watches along the Lake Erie shoreline, and Schultz said that if the warmer-than-usual winter continues, flood activity could be fairly tame for the duration of the spring – but that outlook can change rather quickly.

“We have to remind people that there is still a lot of winter left and there have been times in the past where we’ve had a major melt in January and we accumulate more through February and March, so there is still that potential that we could get a lot of snow.

“We never make forecasts about the future.”

The new terminology comes into effect on Feb. 15, the same day that the GRCA will gather all of the flood coordinators from the varying municipalities to discuss the new language.
Flood messages are posted in the newsroom section of the GRCA website, www.grandriver.ca. The public can also receive flood messages directly through e-mail or Twitter. Information on how to sign up for the services is also available on the GRCA website.

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