Flooding is normally a spring occurrence. But this fall, as the weather cools, Lake Erie residents may have to get the sandbags out.
Since the start of September, three separate conservation authorities have issued shoreline conditions statements for Lake Erie. A shoreline conditions statement is an early notice sent out by conservation authorities indicating that weather and lake conditions could lead to potential flooding.
The three conservation authorities concerned include the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority, which covers the Chatham-Kent area; Long Point Region Conservation Authority, which covers Norfolk County; and Grand River Conservation Authority, which covers Haldimand County.
According to the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority, average daily water levels on Lake Erie are sitting around 174.52 metres. This is actually down compared to the last several years—September water levels peaked in 2019 at 174.87 metres. But Lake Erie’s water levels are still 33 centimetres above the average water level for September.
While there’s been no significant flooding reported, the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources, and Forestry (MNRF) warns that elevated water levels can result in shoreline flooding, beach submersion, crawl space and septic system inundation, and wave-driven erosion along Lake Erie’s shoreline.
Without snow melt, the biggest factor in fall flooding is the weather, particularly precipitation and strong winds. Excess rain can cause the water levels to continue rising, and strong winds generate waves that batter the shoreline, eroding unprotected areas.
“The bluff areas all along the Lake Erie shoreline are…at a greater risk of erosion due to the high lake levels, especially when there are onshore winds and waves,” says the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority in a statement. “The erosion can cause the bluffs to fail, and there have been times over the last few years when many metres of land have fallen into the lake all at one time.”
Under current conditions, severe flooding and erosion would only happen if there were gale force winds, says the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority. It is, however, warning residents to be cautious around Erie Shore Drive as sustained winds of 35 km/h travelling from a southwest to southeast direction could flood the area.
If a flooding event occurs on your property and you’re stuck indoors, the MNRF says the first thing you should do is ensure all important personal items, such as medication and passports, are secured. Then disconnect all electrical appliances, and ensure your phone is charged.
If you’re caught outdoors during a flooding event, move to higher ground, don’t drive through moving water or on roads that travel near the body of water, such as bridges or embankments, and keep children and pets away from floodwaters.
Finally, contact your local municipality to let them know about the flooding.