The city is about to embark on a pilot project to warn drivers about what can go wrong on the Whitemud if Edmonton gets a massive storm, like what happened twice last year. Members of council’s utility committee heard that it will be a low tech campaign.
“It’s cans of paint to paint signs,” manager of drainage services Chris Ward said. He believes the total cost will be somewhere between $10,000 and $50,000. A far cry from the expense of setting up crossing arm barriers at the on-ramps to the Whitemud that would be triggered by sensors and visual confirmation at a command centre.
“We don’t want to spend a lot of money that would take away from neighborhood flood mitigation,” said Coun. Michael Walters.
But that can of paint is also going to remind some drivers of a famous Saturday Night Live feature that had Martin Short and Harry Shearer attempting synchronized swimming. A water line was etched on the mirrors of a dance studio.
“We’ll look at painting lines on the various bridge piers to try to give an indication of what kind of level the floods would be at,” Ward said.
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Sensors are buried at 106 and 111 Streets at the Whitemud underpass. However they only work in conjunction with pumps. They can’t judge what’s pooling on the road surface.
“Between the time that we’re aware that the sewer systems are filling underneath Whitemud and it’s actually starting to flood the surface, we have about a 15 minute response window,” Ward said. “That’s the time frame that we’re trying to respond and give warnings to drivers.”
Radio and TV public service announcements will begin to air in May.
“The main message is take due caution. There is a potential for these locations at these underpasses to flood and that, as a driver, you should take caution as you approach these locations during extreme rain fall events.”
The committee has asked if the pilot can be extended to the Yellowhead where sensors are in use at 82 and 50 Streets.
The drainage branch will be back before city councillors in June with some ideas on how a flood mitigation system can be adapted into the $1 billion upgrade to the Yellowhead over the next ten years.