Rain that doused Alberta fires now cause flooding and prompt evacuations

Rain that doused Alberta fires now cause flooding and prompt evacuations
Alberta's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Tuesday June 30, 2020.

Just days after thousands of residents of Alberta’s Yellowhead County were allowed to return home following their second evacuation in only a few weeks due to forest fires, it’s now flooding that’s forcing some county residents to flee.

An evacuation order was issued late Monday afternoon for residents in Lower Robb, about 250 kilometres west of Edmonton, due to heavy rainfall, although other areas of Robb are not affected by the order.

Earlier in the afternoon, the county declared a state of local emergency due to overland flooding, and Chief Administrative Officer Luc Mercier told an online video update there are numerous roads in the county that are inundated with water.

He warned people not to drive over roads covered with water because they could actually be washed out.

Mercier said the community of Cadomin, meanwhile, is suffering a power outage because snow has knocked down transmission lines and the electricity there could be out for several days.

Yellowhead County Mayor Wade Williams said in a video update that he couldn’t believe what was going on, and that words failed him.

“Honestly, I can’t believe that we’re standing back here,” Williams said. “This is the situation we’re in and we have to try and deal with it.”

Rain last week had been welcomed, since it allowed firefighters to make progress on the battle against massive wildfires that forced more than 8,000 residents of Edson and Yellowhead County to evacuate.

But Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara and the town’s CAO said during their own online video update Monday that they had received over 85 millimetres of rain in a very short time, and that some roads in the community have been closed and infrastructure is taxed.

They said their update had originally been scheduled to talk about re-entry following the fire as well as the status of the fires, but they said flooding was now the priority and that the town had declared a state of local emergency to deal with it.

“We asked for rain and boy did we get it — and way too much,” Zahara said, becoming emotional as he noted how difficult the past few weeks have been.

“Today is hard to watch, to see people struggling with their homes, but I am incredibly proud of our staff here in the Town of Edson and all of our emergency responders,” Zahara added.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 19, 2023.

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