Pat Drummond :: life & technology

April 12, 2014

Rideau River record flood 2014

April 10: The Rideau River where we live near Manotick is almost covered in ice - very late for this time of year. Normally the river melts in late March and peak water levels arrive around April 7. The Rideau Waterway (Rideau Canal) is a  World Heritage Site and water level is controlled by Parks Canada -- and hopefully some experienced guy who knows the "art". Huge square timbers at the dams are raised and lowed manually using forged iron gears and chains. [Pat's Boating in Canada: Rideau Waterway]

April 11: The ice on the Rideau that covered most of the river is now almost all gone downstream - along with a couple of very nice docks. A neighbour saw the first one go by at 7:30 but I only saw the second around 9 am. It was embedded in a large ice sheet and heading for our aluminum dock on its "ice-proof" rig pushed up at a crazy angle by the ice. When it hit our dinghy ramp made of crappy old wood, the whole ice sheet stopped! I started to breathe again. When the ice started moving away our dock frame which has been pushed up 2' suddenly dropped straight down - just as it's supposed to. See the video. Even the dinghy ramp survived the bashing, held by a 50 cent fitting fastened to a steel angle iron. 

As soon as the ice left, the mergansers (common, hooded) and ducks arrived - both sexes - to feed and flirt. I saw them going downstream at a terrific speed. They must enjoy the thrill as much as we do. Even the trees had new birds - starlings, juncos, robins.

Water levels in the Rideau River upsteam at Becketts Landing are 86.7 metres which matches the high of 2008. Highest water on this section of the Rideau Canal in 40 yrs and forecast is heavy rain for Sunday/Monday! Now I'm worried.  (Water level stats [PDF])

Manotick Dam
Watson's Mill -- Manotick Dam (open)
April 12: We were in Manotick village today and I took pictures of the dam at Watson's Mill. You only see it completely open in spring floods. All the logs in the dam were out except one at the east end, probably to protect erosion on that shore. Such a powerful current surging past.  Youtube video: Rideau River at Manotick Dam

Today's news from Rideau Valley Conservation Authority is scary (they even named where I live in their list of flood-prone areas). Unfortunately, Parks Canada is sending us another "surge" of water from the Rideau Lakes. Surviving spring breakup combined with the first water "surge" was only the first hurdle. Many have already lost their docks and have flooded basements.  We are somewhat lucky to have installed an expensive sump pump system with a backup pump and a 12-volt pump. With everything backed up now by an 11-kW natural gas generator. (And yes the power went out yesterday. My heart still skips a beat when that happens just from habit.)

Normally I would be happy with 25°C forecasts in April but it comes with 3 days of rain. The forecast looks like 20mm of rain tonight and tomorrow but could be double that if we get thunderstorms.

Time to find the oars -- or at least tie down the kayak on a sling under the canoe. The water has almost reached it. The globe cedars by the shore are half submerged and look like furry globes when they reflect in the water. The gulls seem happy to lunch on the tiny fish in the warm water in the middle of our back yard.

A neighbour said he talked to a guy out riding his bike who had a flooded basement. Therapy I guess. The neighbour himself had one of his sump pumps quit (he has a TripleSafe system) -- the repair guy can come Tuesday. Reminds me of a boating cartoon (Hagar #3) about sinking boats.

I'm posting this as the water is still rising and the rain arrives. (jadd photos later) Now we await the rain gods and their disciples the weather forecasters. The front yard has bulbs coming up - much more cheerful.

April 13:  It only rained 5mm last night according to my hi-tech tin can. The Weather Network now says 36-Hour Precipitation Outlook From 4:00pm Sun to 3:00am Tue Rain: 10-15 mm.
Quite a change. I spent an hour using the carpet cleaning machine to suck up a few gallons of water from the laundry room. (I know, who on earth has carpet in a laundry room!) The skipper used the shop vac on the water coming in the edge of the concrete floor. We have leaks this year we've never seen before.  The joys of living by a river are only felt in the other three seasons.

April 14: This morning my hi-tech rain gage says 30mm last night. It doesn't register the thunder and lightening that scared the cat. River is rising again. Today was odd with really hot, humid weather with showers - I got caught in 2 of them out shopping. Left the raincoat in the car like an idiot.

Forecast rain, ice pellets, windy and 1-3cm SNOW with -9 overnight. What?! Surely there's a tornado they forgot about.