© Krysta Carroll
As of Saturday, conditions on the Exploits River near Badger were still looking positive.
Mayor Mike Patey said the ice was up past Three Mile Island and that’s a good sign.
“When she gets up there, she sort of sets a little bar for us that everything is good now,” said Patey.
He also remembers that unwritten rule being in place for years before 2003 when all the rules were broken.
“But we don’t foresee any problems right now,” he said.
The real big known right now is the weather, he said. It’s hard to know how severe it’s going to get and even harder to predict how that may affect things, he added. Friday night, the fire department was up all night checking tell tale sites for water every half hour or so, said Patey. They’ll continue checking until they’re really out of the woods.
Earlier story - Cautiously optimistic - Exploits River causes scary moments for community
Though the Badger Fire Department and Town were still monitoring the Exploits River day and night, the mayor said the mood was upbeat Friday.
“Right now we are really in a positive mood,” Badger Mayor Mike Patey told The Advertiser Friday afternoon.
“Right now the signs are looking good and we’re in a positive mood that she’s filled in and, hopefully, she’ll stay that way.”
This following some scary moments that brought back memories of almost 10 years ago — Feb. 15, 2003 to be exact — when waters of the river, and tonnes of ice, came into the community.
“It was scary all during the evening (Thursday) right up to about 12 (midnight),” Patey said. “When the water started coming it got a little tense. 2003 is still in everybody’s mind so there’s a lot of memories coming back.”
Around midnight, the mayor said, he expects the water found a vent, and as of Friday afternoon he hadn’t seen any new water, which he said was a good sign. The water that had come into town previously was frozen solid.
Water entered the community mostly in the River Road and Beothuk Street areas, and some properties near the Trans-Canada Highway in the areas of Earle Street and Maple Street.
Residents were given the scenario and decided to leave their homes. In addition, school was closed on Friday for precautionary reasons, as the Red Indian Brook behind the school was quite high, he said.
“Last night I would say about 10 families (evacuated) — mostly it was this area (River Road and Beothuk Street) because there are still about six houses in this area — and they were all out of their homes,” Patey said.
There was no sign of damage to homes, he said.
Patey said the community was still under an ice jam advisory until at least today when the provincial government environment and conservation water resources department was expected to give another report on ice generation.
From assessments Friday morning, with the help of the Nalcor, everything was looking good, Patey said.
“But we learned a lesson in 2003 and you don’t know really what’s going to happen,” he said.
“Right now (the ice) is packed in pretty tight here,” Patey said. “She’s about a mile and a half up the river from us, up past what we call Gull Rocks, and she’s still making a lot of frazil up above. It’s moving up there but it’s packing in up there so we’re hoping from today and tonight she’s going to be packed in up as far as Three Mile Island. Once she gets packed in up around that island, we have a tendency to say we’re pretty good.”
They did have that scenario in 2003, he said, but many other variables came in to play that year.
“I don’t see it being the same now. What we are seeing this year is something that we’ve seen over the years. She would block in a rise and slowly topple over the bank.”
Then the water finds a vent, he said.
“Ever since 2003 we have a tendency to be more cautious. We look at everything now, even up above us,” Patey said.
The events of 2003 changed the way people viewed the river in the winter, he said.
“We always had that security blanket once she filled in we were safe, but now we have to keep monitoring the river, keep monitoring the ice up above to make sure nothing happens up there and comes down this way.”
Wilmore Eddy, manager of Exploits Generation and Menihek for Nalcor, has been managing the Exploits River for the last 25 years.
“We always have an interest because we have some control on the Exploits River with our main water control structure on Red Indian Lake,” Eddy said.
“We have control on the Exploits River, we do not have control of the Exploits River.”
As a public safety issue, Eddy said, they always monitor ice formation on the Exploits River,
starting close to Grand Falls-Windsor as there’s always some potential flooding of the Trans-Canada
Highway around Red Cliff, he
“Then as the ice moves up through the Exploits River system when it gets to Badger, what we’re experiencing here now, that risk of flooding in Badger is always there whenever the ice cover moves up through Badger,” Eddy said.
“Residents are aware of it, they’ve experienced it many, many times, some years it’s worse than others depending on weather conditions and so on.”
Eddy said for a number of years, they worked closely with the town, passing on information on what they are doing as a company with discharge of the water from Red Indian Lake and also pass on their experience of looking at the ice formations, and opinions on whether the ice cover looks stable.
See ‘YOU’RE DEALING,” page A14
Related story, page A10
The water that flooded the banks of the Exploits River into the community of Badger on Thursday froze solid. Luckily, as of press time, there were no reports of home damage, and the outlook looked positive as no new water was flowing in. — Photo by Krysta Carroll/The Advertiser
... Continued from page A7
In addition to that, he said, the provincial government has an ice prediction computer model that looks at a number of things.
“It looks at what the weather forecast is for the next 48 hours and makes a prediction based on temperature and wind speed, because wind is a big factor in all of this,” Eddy said.
“It makes the forecast of how many tonnes of ice the river is going to make in that period. That information also feeds into the chain. On a daily basis we look at all that information and we have communications with the Town that we think based on what the computer model is saying, the leading edge of the ice cover is going to be at a certain point by a certain time.
On Friday, being in a situation of potential flooding in the town of Badger, all those parties came together for discussions on a daily basis, he said.
He said the situation last week was completely different than 2003.
“What’s happening here now over the last couple of days, that threat is there every single year when ice moves upstream through the Town of Badger,” Eddy said.
“Its has been going on for years and years and the town is very familiar with it, they know what to look for, they know what to monitor and so on.”
The river plugs downstream of the town, he explained, and creates a restriction in the flow. … When you create a restriction in that flow, then obviously the water starts to back up and back into town.
What happened in 2003, was the first time it happened that anyone is aware of, Eddy said, and it hasn’t happened since.
The ice cover was 12 miles upstream of Badger, and it let go.
“You had 12 miles of ice, the full width of the river, that at one point was moving downstream as a unit, like a runaway freight train,” Eddy said.
“That 12 miles of ice compressed into six miles of ice, so you can imagine the forces of nature that come into play, so it drove a wall of water ahead of that ice as it was moving downstream.”
He said all the other events they’ve had is because of a blockage below and the water moving upstream.
The difference with that is, it’s unpredictable, however, what occurred late last week was somewhat predictable, he said.
Nalcor follows the leading edge of ice cover all the way upstream and then back down until the open channel of that ice gets below the town.
“We’ll communicate that to the Town of Badger on an as required basis depending on the seriousness at that time,” Eddy said.
Now, what they look at, when they look at it, and how often they look at it, has changed since 2003.
“You’re dealing with the forces of Mother Nature,” Eddy said. “The situation out here now has gotten a lot better than what it was. The water here peaked around midnight. What I saw here yesterday is something that I haven’t seen, and I have been at the river now for 25 years and every year I’ll learn something new about the Exploits River.”
Ice in the river pushed around noon on Thursday, Eddy explained, and there were ice ridges at the mouth of Little Red Indian and Badger Brook, the two major tributaries that are feeding the Exploits River.
That restricted the water flow in those brooks and they started to back up from their own water – something he said he hasn’t seen as severe in the past — as opposed to the levels in the Exploits River rising and pushing water up those brooks.
However, this was a normal course of events as ice goes up through Badger, he said.
“The think it was 2009 the last time the ice went up through Badger,” he said.
“It don’t happen every year.”
As of The Advertiser’s deadline, the situation is being watched and was to be reassessed each day.