A number of dams have been built to control water flows on the Grand River but water had to be released from them this weekend as the reservoirs approached full capacity. The Nith River flows into the Grand at Paris, Ontario, but there are no dams upstream for flood control and some communities along its banks have seen the worst flooding since 1975.
This low head dam used to be a popular perch for summer swimmers to dive from when flows were much lower. Ten years ago in August 1998, a ten year old boy drowned at this spot as did the police officer from the diving team who tried to retrieve the body. People have become more respectful of the power of the river, even when it is not in flood. I took the picture on the left of kayakers in the same spot beneath the dam during the spring thaw in March 2007. The arches at the bottom of the old mill building are submerged now and the big rock is completely covered with water.
Downstream from the hospital, the Speed River joins the Grand River at Preston. Further along, the river is channelled over a low head dam between the flood walls in Galt. I have watched the river here in the spring but have never seen it rush like it did yesterday.
Yesterday the Grand River flood crest occurred at noon a few kilometres from our home in Galt, Ontario. I wrote about a severe flood which happened here in May 1974. Since then, flood walls have been built along the river within the city core. The river flows below the hospital where I work and the flood plain is wide and uninhabited. The river is much wider than usual here and the current is fast, but not ferocious. None of the trails I walk in this area are accessible at this time.
This is the next bridge where Main Street crosses the river. I took a number of pictures here one week earlier and have placed one on the left for comparison. I don't think a canoe would even fit under this bridge. Further downstream a man did try to canoe in this current. He struck a tree and had to be rescued by the emergency response team. In my opinion, people like this should have to pay for their own rescue. The flood walls are higher than the roadway and are seen well in the smaller picture.
Below is a 30 second video clip of the moving water. If you want to watch three and a half minutes of rushing water, I posted a longer video here on YouTube. A number of people were watching the river and I was talking to an enthusiastic flood watcher. He was an aspiring hydrologist and was contemplating a post graduate degree in this field. He threw numbers and statistics at me as he analyzed the river. These numbers give some idea of the river's average and flood flows. At this spot:
Average flow- 15-30 cubic metres/second
Dec 29/08 peak flow- 603 cubic metres/second
Major flood May 1974- 1000+ cubic metres/second
Many areas of North America have experienced similar weather conditions and are flooded at this time. Flood control measures have been effective in this city this time but we can never underestimate the power of nature's forces.