Southern Lakes prepares for soggy August

Flooding preparations are underway in the Southern Lakes region. Water levels are expected to peak in early August, meeting or surpassing…

Flooding preparations are underway in the Southern Lakes region.

Water levels are expected to peak in early August, meeting or surpassing 1981’s record-setting levels.

 “The water is coming,” volunteer Emergency Measures Organization co-ordinator Mike Larsen said on Monday.

Saturday, a sandbagging party in the low-lying area of Army Beach on Marsh Lake brought residents together to help each other prepare for flooding.

“We’re trying to get the word out right now about sandbagging,” said Larsen, who’s also on the Marsh Lake advisory council.

“It’s a slow process, but people should be thinking about things they can do to mitigate the flooding. If they’re full-time residents, they should come out and visit and help out.”

Emergency measures and protective services have already dropped off six or seven dump-truck loads of sand for residents to start sandbagging their properties.

Tagish Lake and Carcross are also under a flood watch.

Since early June, Marsh Lake levels have risen two metres, from 654.5 metres above sea level to 656.5 metres. And the lake is expected to rise about another half-metre when the water peaks in mid-August, according to Yukon Energy.

In 2004, water levels peaked at about 656.75 metres in mid-August.

The water could rise to or surpass the 1981 record of 657 metres — the highest level on record, said emergency measures spokesperson Doug Caldwell.

Every day, the Southern Lakes region is experiencing a three- to five-centimetre rise in water levels, he added.

Larsen estimates about 30 cabins and residences around Marsh Lake, including Army Beach and South McClintock could be affected if the river floods.

Due to high temperatures this summer, 40 per cent of the rising water level is caused by the glacier melt, 35 per cent is caused by summer precipitation and 25 per cent from the snowpack.

Water levels in the Southern Lakes region upstream from the Whitehorse Rapids hydro facility can vary wildly from year to year, depending on a combination of factors.

Hot summers, leading to high glacial melts, mixed with lots of rain following a heavy winter snowfall can create flooding in low-lying lake areas around Marsh Lake and Tagish Lake.

“In Army Beach, people are used to flooding because they live in a low-lying area. It’s the wind and the waves they’re concerned about. The waves can get pretty bad in August so they’re trying to bolster the walls they already have,” said Larsen

“But there’s not a heckuva lot you can do, although sandbagging will help.”

There are sanitation concerns if properties are flooded, especially homes with buried septic and fuel tanks, said Larsen, 

It’s suggested residents pump out sewage from septic tanks and fill them with fresh water, while homes with fuel tanks should chain them down to prevent them from floating away.

If the situation worsens, the advisory council could declare an emergency, which would require the Yukon government to provide more resources to deal with the flooding.

The government is developing a website with flood preparation information and water level updates, said Caldwell.

It is accessible through the government website at www.gov.yk.ca and should be running within the next 24 hours.