Flood warnings are made regularly, floods take place regularly - the average citizens wants to know what they can do today.

News 100 greenBy Staff

October 16th, 2018


We are indebted to CATCH (Citizens at City Hall), a Hamilton group that uses public documents to highlight information about Hamilton civic affairs that is not generally available in the mass media.

The extreme flooding accompanying recent hurricanes in the southern US carries a stark warning for Hamilton and other Canadian communities of increasingly severe rain storms. That threat was echoed by the province’s environmental commissioner in her recent report and again when she spoke last week. And it was particularly underlined by the frightening assessment last week from the world’s climate scientists.

Researchers have had time to examine what happened in Texas last year with Hurricane Harvey that dumped several FEET of rain onto Houston and surrounding areas. They have concluded that climate change greatly worsened that precipitation and made it three and half times more likely.

This fall more unbelievable rainfall volumes arrived with Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas. Preliminary evaluation indicates the amounts were 50 percent higher because of climate change, and that 11,000 additional homes were inundated because of higher sea levels driven by the same cause.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration maps show a vast area that was subjected to a greater than 1000-year deluge. Detailed information is still being examined on Hurricane Michael that devastated the Florida Panhandle last week.

Commissioner Dianne Saxe told a climate conference at York University last week that extreme weather this year in Ontario has already caused more than a billion dollars in insured damages. Even without uninsured losses that’s five times the amount in any year prior to 1998 and second only to 2013 when Toronto suffered massive flooding.

Flood Fairview plaza

A commercial plaza parking lot on Fairview could not manage the amount of water.

Her report to the provincial legislature issued at the beginning of this month cites flooding in numerous Ontario cities including Hamilton and warns that growth in the golden horseshoe “combined with climate change, wetland loss, and inadequate stormwater management could dramatically increase the frequency and intensity of urban flooding.” She explains that “Ontario’s municipalities face a staggering $6.8 billion stormwater infrastructure deficit” and that “basic physics” mean rising temperatures pose a huge threat.

“In general, warmer temperatures drive higher evaporation rates of surface water, and increase the amount of moisture that the air can hold. Every degree Celsius that the temperature rises, the air is able to hold (and drop) seven percent more moisture, making storms more intense and severe.”

Hamilton has experienced more than 20 storms since 2005 that flooded homes. The most destructive was in 2009 when over 7000 homes were inundated, but the largest hit mainly rural areas in upper Stoney Creek and Binbrook in 2012 that dumped six inches in three hours and was categorized as a one in a thousand year event.

That was similar in uniqueness to the Toronto and Calgary floods in 2013 and the 2014 deluge in Burlington that flooded 6000 homes and simultaneously shut down both the QEW and the 407. Saxe reported that the Insurance Bureau of Canada now says one in ten Canadian properties “will soon be uninsurable by the private market” and that the United Kingdom has already stopped using public funds to bailout victims.

“In the UK they already know they can’t afford that anymore since the 2007 floods when they had three billion pounds in losses. That was the biggest destruction of infrastructure since the Luftwaffe,” said Saxe. “And they finally realized after several years of flood after flood the government cannot pay for everything anymore. But are we having an honest conversation on that? Are we hearing any conversation about it? We’re not.”

Among her recommendations is a requirement for municipalities to regularly update floodplain maps and conducting “climate change vulnerability assessments of their infrastructure as a condition of obtaining provincial government funding for projects.”

Flood presentation - 407 flooded

The 407 became impassable in the western Halton

Last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confronted the world with the grim news that the Paris Accord promise to keep average global heating to 2 Celsius degrees is far too dangerous. One effect of failing to do that is that the frequency of extreme rainfall doubles between 1.5C of heating and 2C. Even emergency cuts of nearly half in greenhouse gas emissions in the next 12 years won’t save the planet from catastrophic damages.

Flood presentation - map showing area of rainfall

It was a very local storm that dumped xx rain on the eastern part of the city with next to nothing in Waterdown. It was in reality several storms that caught everyone off guard.

The full report says we have to end fossil fuel use, reverse deforestation and reduce meat consumption. But the IPCC’s previous predictions have mostly turned out to be underestimates and critics argue this latest report is subject to the same flaws. The summary document, for example, is approved word by word by political representatives. In addition the effect of tipping points and feedback loops are still not incorporated into the IPCC forecasts.


Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

2 comments to Flood warnings are made regularly, floods take place regularly – the average citizens wants to know what they can do today.

  • Lindsay James

    Good news for Burlington residents. The City will waive the $600 cost of a building permit to install a backwater valve that prevents sanitary sewer backup and an emergency backup water powered sump pump. The Region kicks in up to $675 for the backwater valve.

    What’s a water powered sump pump? It is a pump that goes in the sump pit above the regular electric sump pump. It is fed by the house water supply and acts like the old fashioned carburetor using the venturi principle to suck up sump water while discharging house water. It uses one litre of fresh water to remove 2 litres of sump water. Most high end builders are putting these in as a matter of course.

    So what’s the big deal? When the power goes out during a rainstorm, the main electric sump pump stops working. You can then start bailing water into your toilet if it hasn’t backed up. Or you might have a generator that hasn’t been run for a few years and may not start. There is even a new product on the market called a car generator that converts your 12 Volt battery power to 120 VAC. You run an extension cord down to your sump pump and it lasts as long as the car engine is running.

    But if you are not at home some people use a battery powered emergency sump pump that runs for as long as the battery lasts – a day at best unless you or a friend can replace the battery. A water powered sump pump will operate as long as there is water to your house. Typically, water treatment plants have backup generators that keep the water supply in tact. So if you spend the winters in Florida and you live north of Spruce along Tuck Creek or in a similar situation, you might want to consider this. Just don’t shut off the water to the emergency sump pump. Your insurance company will probably look favourably on you as well.

  • Phillip Wooster

    An interesting observation. In 1979 I was considering two houses to buy, both backing onto Tuck Creek. A chance meeting with a farmer who had owned a farm at Lakeshore and PineCove up until 1961 convinced me to buy the house south of Spruce rather than the one north of Spruce. His observation was that in Hurricane Hazel in 1954, the area north of what is now Spruce flooded badly (he called it a flood plain, very flat) whereas south of Spruce, Tuck Creek is in a deeper valley and did not flood over the top of the valley. I bought south of Spruce and remained high and dry during 2014’s storm.