Cataraqui Conservation issues water safety statement for area waterways

High water levels at Kingston Mills Locks, spring 2022. Photo by Jessica Foley/Kingstonist.

Cataraqui Conservation has issued a Water Safety Statement and a Shoreline Conditions Statement due to a significant winter storm forecast to pass through the region in the coming days.

The weather system is expected to bring rain and snow to the region December 22 through 24, according to a release from Cataraqui Conservation. Total amounts and type of precipitation is uncertain, but the conservation authority said that forecasts are calling for rainfall amounts of 30 to 45+ mm over an 18 to 24-hour period from December 22 to 23.

A strong cold front will also sweep through the province on Friday, according to the Conservation Authority, bringing strong to damaging southwesterly winds. “Sustained winds of 40 to 50 km/h can be expected,” Cataraqui Conservation said. “Gusts up to 90 km/h, reaching as high as 110 km/h, are possible. Intense winds are expected to continue through Saturday becoming lighter on Sunday, as the system makes its way through the province.”

The Surface Water Monitoring Centre (SWMC) of the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry (NDMNRF) has issued a Provincial Flood Watch for the Great Lakes Shoreline, according to a second media release from Cataraqui Conservation.

According to that release, forecast winds across the Great Lakes will result in increased water levels due to storm surge and wave heights. SWMC forecasted storm surge values at Kingston suggest water levels could rise by more than 0.5 m before declining on December 24, and shorelines of Lake Ontario will see waves in the range of 1.5 – 2.0 m.

According to the Conservation Authority, with the existing frozen ground conditions, high runoff into lakes and streams is expected, especially where there is minimal snowpack to absorb rainfall.

“Inland lake levels and stream flows may rise for several days and could remain elevated for weeks,” Cataraqui Conservation said, while also noting that high water and wave action along the shoreline of the Great Lakes may increase erosion and deposit debris along shorelines and beaches.

“Flows through water control structures will be high as Water Managers increase discharge through dams to mitigate, as much as possible, the negative impacts from the expected inflows.”

While widespread flooding is not expected at this time, the Conservation Authority is urging caution around dams and fast-flowing watercourses, and stated that deterioration of ice conditions can be expected. The Great Lakes shorelines are likely to become slippery as well, increasing the chance of falling in.

“Cataraqui Conservation does not measure ice thickness for advising the public about ice conditions for recreational activities,” the organization said. “Ice conditions can vary considerably from one waterbody to the next, and within a single water body.”

If extended rainfall does occur, flooding in low-lying areas and roadway ponding — such as the common ponding that occurs under the Gardiners Road overpass — may occur. Cataraqui Conservation is reminding residents that the municipality is the first point of contact to report localized flooding.

For up-to-date flooding information, visit Cataraqui Conservation’s flood forecasting and information page.

Kingstonist will continue to monitor weather conditions and flooding alerts, and will provide updates if/when possible.

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