Those were the good news words Town of Antigonish CAO Jeff Lawrence used late Monday (Feb. 5) afternoon to describe the flooding situations around town which started Friday (Feb. 2) evening with ice and water overflowing into a popular downtown parking lot and was reenergized overnight Sunday and into Monday by heavy rains.
“The flooding is starting to recede in most areas of town; we did a site tour of Court Street and all of that is starting to go down as well … we expect that to continue,” Lawrence said, noting he just came out of a debriefing meeting with fellow town officials regarding the situation.
“The tide is going out, West River is running freely now; we expect, for this occurrence, the worst is over now. There is still more rain forecasted for Wednesday and Thursday so we’ll be monitoring that closely. Hopefully we don’t have any major event come out of that but, again, we’ll monitor it and see what happens.”
Lawrence talked about factors which create the possibility for flooding in the areas affected, this time around.
“The town has seen higher floods in the past,” he said. “Not in a number of years; not since the bridge over West River was replaced. But, in this particular one; normally you would have the ice break up in chunks, so some water would be flowing through it. But with this one, with all the freezes and thaws, you had a bunch of slush as well and, as the slush went through the current, it almost acted like cement.
“This flood was very rapid. The Five Cents to 1$ parking lot, Ken (Proctor – director of public works) observed it at 5 p.m. (Friday), didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. Sean Day (director of planning and building services) on his way home at 5:30 p.m., didn’t notice anything really out of the ordinary but, by 6:15, it was full. That was what caught us off guard, and by 6:30, the temperatures were plummeting.
“We couldn’t do anything to extricate those cars until Saturday; of course with cold water there is ice and everything … this was more the speed of the event.”
A thoroughfare, adjacent to the parking area, was closed down, at times, during the work as well as a portion of Church Street on Monday.
“There is not, really,” Lawrence said, in response to whether there are prevention measures the town could take in anticipation of future flooding occurrences of this nature.
“If you have driven around town you have seen the volumes of water we’re talking about; any attempt to make a retaining wall is just going to push the water somewhere else but you wouldn’t be able to hold those volumes,” he said.
“There are three main water courses that converge in this town and, from time-to-time, when the elements line up right, these events are going to happen.
“We tried to remove as much of the ice as we could on the Five Cents to 1$ parking lot because that acts as a staging area for the ice. You actually want some areas where the ice gets out of the channel. Columbus Field is another area and what they call the Salt Ponds in behind the mall. Those are all areas you want the ice to flow into to get out of the main channel but then there will be the odd time when this is going to occur in the Town of Antigonish.”
Lawrence noted the Town of Truro has a similar issue.
As far as precautions for residents with still a lot of water pooling, Lawrence noted drivers should be cautious of pot holes hidden by the water and that there is still an aggressive current.
“We ask people driving their vehicles exercise some caution,” he said. “We’re filling them in as soon as we are made aware of them but there is still a lot of water running over top so people don’t see them. As soon as we are made aware, we go out and put some rough patch in. If you drive up Hawthorne (Street) you’ll see that; they don’t look pretty but they serve the purpose until we can put a more permanent fix in.”
“And where there is still flooding, there is a lot of current. Just make sure you stay away from the open water. There is ice underneath. We were lucky there was no serious risk to life that occurred in this one but, as long as the water is high and the current is strong, and with the ice, there are dangers there.”