Worst over? Drenched city’s sodden aftermath
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.
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.
A walkway to a dock at Bayfront Park sits partially submerged following Thursday’s downpour, with a mostly rainy week ahead.