’50 in 50′ Series: Flooding: Not If, But When . . . (1980 to today)


Lower Trent Conservation is celebrating its 50th anniversary! To commemorate this milestone occasion, we have released our ’50 in 50′ historical blog series. This special series features 50 articles highlighting some of the achievements, milestones and events of the past 50 years. We hope you enjoy them!

Flooding is a natural event. Floods can be expected at any time during any year. Past records clearly document the serious and unpredictable nature of flooding.

EvergreenLn_ (13)
Flooding in Brighton, ON during historic Lake Ontario high water event (2017)

Many flood events occur in the spring as a result of precipitation and snowmelt, but heavy rain or ice jamming at other times of the year can also result in flooding issues.

Warkworth Dam in winter
Wintertime ice jam at Mill Creek Dam in Warkworth, ON

Lower Trent Conservation, like all 36 conservation authorities in Ontario, is responsible for providing early warning of flood emergencies to municipalities and the public. The flood forecasting and warning program is intended to reduce the risk to life and damage to property caused by flooding.

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Lower Trent Conservation staff surveying flood conditions in Brighton, ON (2017)
Bay Street Marina in Brighton, ON closed due to flooding (2017) 

The flood of 1980 demonstrated that, while Lower Trent Conservation had an operational flood warning program, the system lacked refinement and adequate coordination with provincial and municipal emergency planning. Lower Trent Conservation immediately responded to this need with the development of a comprehensive flood warning plan that included extensive contact lists, identification of roles and responsibilities, and procedures for disseminating water level bulletins. Flood contingency plans are reviewed and updated on an annual basis.

Water level ‘staff gauge’ in the Trent River, located south of the bridge in Glen Ross, ON

In that same year, the Conservation Authority also began the formulation of a network of stream gauges to further augment its flood forecasting capabilities. (Note: Watch for upcoming 50 in 50 blog – First Hydrometeorological Station Installed)

2013_0430 Trent River Bridge Staff Gauge
Water level ‘staff gauge’ as can be seen at the mouth of the Trent River in Trenton, ON

Today, Lower Trent Conservation’s flood forecasting and warning program consists of the daily collection of data from a network of stream gauges, weather stations, snowpack measurements, weather forecasts, and computer models to determine the potential for flooding.

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Stream gauge equipment installed along Squires (Hoards) Creek at Kings Mill Conservation Area in Stirling, ON
Above: new installation of a precipitation gauge at Lower Trent Conservation’s main office Below: Snow surveying to determine snowpack amounts, in the 1980s and today

When spring melt or severe storms are anticipated, Lower Trent Conservation estimates the severity, location, and timing of possible flooding and may issue bulletins to municipalities and watershed residents using three types of messages.

  • Flood Warning: flooding is imminent or already occurring
  • Flood Watch: there is the potential for flooding
  • Watershed Conditions Statements: flood outlook (an early notice of the potential for flooding based on heavy rain, snow melt etc.) and water safety information.

Watch for the flood status icons on our home page! www.ltc.on.ca

 Water Level Bulletins – Definitions

Normal Conditions: No flood conditions exist.
Water Safety Statement: High flows, unsafe banks, melting ice or other factors that could be dangerous for recreational users such as anglers, canoeists, hikers, children, pets, etc.  Flooding is not expected.
Flood Outlook Statement: Early notice of the potential for flooding based on weather forecasts calling for heavy rain, snowmelt, high wind, or other conditions that could lead to high runoff, cause ice jams, lakeshore flooding or erosion.
Flood Watch:  Flooding is possible to occur in the near future in specific watercourses or municipalities. Nuisance flooding of access roads, backyards, basements, etc. may be occurring. Buildings/people are not at risk. The Flood Watch is intended to provide notice to municipalities, emergency services and individual landowners in flood prone areas that measures should be taken to prepare for possible flooding.
Flood Warning:  Flooding is imminent or occurring. The Flood Warning is intended to provide notice to municipalities and emergency services that action is required on their part.


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