Worst over? Drenched city’s sod­den af­ter­math

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW VAN DON­GEN

The fore­cast sug­gests the worst of the storm is over, but Hamil­ton is still re­cov­er­ing af­ter a day of record-break­ing rain­fall and wa­ter­logged cou­ple of months.

More than 45 mil­lime­tres of rain dumped on the city through­out Thurs­day, flood­ing some city streets, caus­ing sports fields to close and spurring the city to block ac­cess to Burling­ton piers.

The drench­ing sur­passed the pre­vi­ous record of 26.2 mil­lime­tres for May 25 set on that day in 2011 by nearly 20 mil­lime­tres, said En­vi­ron­ment Canada se­vere weather me­te­o­rol­o­gist Ria Alsen.

“This is sort of typ­i­cal spring that we get the show­ery weather, but oc­ca­sion­ally a load will stick around and give us more rain­fall than we are used to see­ing,” Alsen added.

Sec­tions of King Street and Olympia Drive in Dun­das saw some flood­ing while low-ly­ing res­i­den­tial side streets on the beach strip were once more un­der­wa­ter.

The city con­tin­ued to use pumper trucks to vac­uum up the ex­cess wa­ter from those east-end streets. That $130,000 ef­fort started in late April, fol­low­ing a record-break­ing storm and has con­tin­ued reg­u­larly over the last month, mostly be­cause of high lake lev­els.

The rain ta­pered off by Thurs­day af­ter­noon, but by then a heavy layer of fog had be­gun coat­ing the city be­cause of mois­ture in the air, Alsen said.

While the weather the next few days is ex­pected to be “un­set­tled,” Hamil­ton shouldn’t see a re­peat of the “sig­nif­i­cant amounts” it’s been hit with in re­cent weeks, Alsen noted.

Fri­day was ex­pected to bring a few more show­ers, but the fore­cast for Satur­day calls for dry skies and some sun­shine. But come late Sun­day, there’s a chance of show­ers all the way through Thurs­day.

“It won’t be all the time, and it’s typ­i­cally more show­ers in the af­ter­noon,” Alsen said. “You might ac­tu­ally see some sunny breaks in the morn­ing.”

The Hamil­ton Con­ser­va­tion Author­ity is­sued a flood watch Thurs­day, warn­ing of an in­creased risk of shore­line flood and ero­sion be­cause of the al­ready el­e­vated wa­ter lev­els in Lake Ontario com­bined with high north­east­erly winds.

Scott Peck, the author­ity’s direc­tor of wa­ter­shed plan­ning and en­gi­neer­ing, said there weren’t any re­ports of river or lake flood­ing Thurs­day.

With the ex­pec­ta­tion of dy­ing winds, con­cerns about a “wave up-rush” have calmed, said Jonathan Bastien, a wa­ter re­source engi­neer with the author­ity.

But a flood watch will likely re­main in ef­fect be­cause of the in­creas­ingly high wa­ter lev­els in Lake Ontario, he noted.

“They’re con­tin­u­ing to rise just a lit­tle bit be­cause of the rain we had to­day.”

The sig­nif­i­cant amount of rain re­ceived in April and ear­lier this month has al­ready cre­ated el­e­vated wa­ter lev­els in lakes and wa­ter­ways — with Lake Ontario at its high­est lev­els since 1918.

The re­pair tally so far for dam­age caused by this storm-laden spring — which has seen more than 170 mil­lime­tres of re­lent­less rain — is ap­proach­ing $2.5 mil­lion, city coun­cil­lors were told Wed­nes­day.

Be­cause of re­cent weather, Ward 5 Coun. Chad Collins said the city de­cided to block ac­cess to the fed­er­ally-owned piers that stretch out into Lake Ontario near the lift bridge, be­cause wind­whipped waves are sub­merg­ing the con­crete walk­way.

“We’ve had calls from con­cerned res­i­dents who see peo­ple walk­ing there …. The waves are lit­er­ally wash­ing over the piers, par­tic­u­larly when a ship makes its way through.”

The piers, a pop­u­lar place for peo­ple to walk and view the lake, are owned by Trans­port Canada; but the wa­ter­front trail owned by the cities of Burling­ton and Hamil­ton con­nect to the long con­crete struc­tures.

Collins said he con­tacted Trans­port Canada about block­ing pier ac­cess, but in the mean­time, the city will fence off the por­tion of city-man­aged trail lead­ing up to the area.

Large swaths of the wa­ter­front trail along the har­bour are cov­ered and re­main off-lim­its to the pub­lic, with re­pair es­ti­mates for ero­sion be­tween $700,000 and $1 mil­lion.

As a re­sult, the Hamil­ton Wa­ter­front Trust trol­ley ser­vice will only run be­tween Pier 8 and Bayfront Park this week­end — and likely that way well into June, said agency head Werner Plessl.

Nor­mally, the pop­u­lar trol­ley runs all the way to Princess Point.

It will con­tinue to cir­cle around Pier 8 to the HMCS Haida, de­spite record-high lake lev­els that have left the wa­ter less than a foot from the top of that sec­tion of pier.

“As long as the wa­ter is not over­top­ping the trail, we’re fine to con­tinue,” he said.

The city closed all out­door sports fields Thurs­day be­cause of soggy con­di­tions, but a de­ci­sion about the week­end had not yet been made, said pub­lic works spokesper­son Jas­mine Gra­ham.

While city-owned beaches have not been of­fi­cially closed, “there’s not much beach to see” in ei­ther the har­bour or along Lake Ontario be­cause of high lake lev­els, Gra­ham noted.

“We are gen­er­ally ask­ing res­i­dents to be care­ful around the wa­ter in th­ese con­di­tions.”

Re­served for boats? A sign sits par­tially sub­merged near the Royal Hamil­ton Yacht Club as the wa­ter con­tin­ues to rise. April and May show­ers have brought Lake Ontario to its high­est level since 1918.

GARY YOKOYAMA, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

The rain isn’t help­ing road work across the city. Ac­cord­ing to work­ers on this York Road site, they be­lieve there’s an­other two weeks of re­con­struc­tion is still ahead.

PHO­TOS BY BARRY GRAY, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

A walk­way to a dock at Bayfront Park sits par­tially sub­merged fol­low­ing Thurs­day’s down­pour, with a mostly rainy week ahead.

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