Sandbags offered to address spring melt (March 13, 2014)

Written by Taylor Weaver

Published by High River Times on Thursday, March 13, 2014

After the town was graced with warmer temperatures last week, some residents’ homes are encountering issues with melt water. To address this issue, free sandbags are now available for pickup at Highwood High School parking lot.

Volunteers from Samaritan’s Purse and Mennonite Disaster Service helped Town staff fill the sandbags on Tuesday and Wednesday, and they are available for pickup until dark on Friday.

“We’re going to keep a staff member onsite to help with the loading of the sandbags and also to answer any questions residents may have,” said Joan Botkin, Communications Manager with the Town of High River. “There are still a lot of them left and it seems like not a lot of people are needing them right now.

“The bags weren’t being provided due to an overland flooding issue at all,” she said. “It has more to do with the grading on properties because the melt water is flowing towards residents’ homes and not draining out to the street where it’s supposed to go.”

The sandbags are being made available to ensure residents can protect their homes from the spring melt, which is an annual issue in some parts of the town.

“We had just over 3,000 bags made up by around noon on Wednesday and at the end of the day there were still upwards of 2,500 remaining in Highwood’s parking lot,” Botkin said. “We want people to be aware that they are available for anybody and we do have Town staff onsite to help load the bags into your vehicle.” Bags will continue to be filled should residents still need them.

Although 70 per cent of the town is now draining, there are still areas that are susceptible due to the grade of the properties. In these cases, operations crews will be providing sandbags to these homeowners.

“All of the staff we have onsite are very friendly and happy to answer any questions people have for them,” Botkin said. “They’re there to help; just tell them how many you think you need and they’ll load them up for you. Just take what you need because you can’t really store them.”

High River Mayor Craig Snodgrass was at Highwood High School on Wednesday to speak to media and check on the progress of the bagging process.

“We’re just being proactive here and you have to remember this has absolutely nothing to do with the river,” Snodgrass said. “We’re doing this because of the spring snow melt; this isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last time.

“There’s just a lot of snow in town right now so council asked administration if we could get some sandbags put together so they’re available for people to put in their backyards to block water from storm drains.”

Snodgrass added that the snow melt issue in High River is one that is affecting many Southern Alberta towns.

“The melt happens instantaneously when the temperature goes from -10C on Saturday and then to 15C on Sunday and your storm drains are frozen solid. It just creates problems.”

Snodgrass said that council only asked for a handful of bags for residents to use, but by the time volunteers were finished bagging there were over 3,000.

“The volunteers made this all happen so a big thanks to the NGOs that helped and to the High River Fire Department guys who came out and helped,” he said. “A lot of the firefighters who came out were off shift and wanted to come in and help.”

Sandbags are available for pickup until dark on Friday, and the Town will store any leftover bags for future use.

The Town is also reminding homeowners to check that their sump pumps are working properly, as the water table is high right now and some property owners may experience seepage into their basements.

For more information, contact the Town’s operations department at 403-652-4657.

For more information and to make a donation, visit the Samaritan’s Purse website.

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