Past floods on Waskasoo Creek

There has been a great deal of media coverage recently on the province’s new maps of floodways and flood fringe zones. These maps will be used for guidance on where new developments will be allowed. The maps will also be used to help determine eligibility for future disaster assistance from the provincial government.

The worst flooding ever recorded on the Red Deer River occurred in late June 1915. The Red Deer River was already high from snowmelt from the mountains. After 122 mm. of rain fell, the river rose to alarming levels. At its crest, the flood hit more than six metres (19.7 ft.) above normal.

The severe floods of June 2005 came close to being a record breaker. However, they fell short of the 1915 historic peak by a small amount. According to reports at the time, the Red Deer River flows were more than 1,710 m³ per second in 2005, but hit 1,900 m³ per second in 1915.

There was considerable damage in both 1915 and 2005. Fortunately, no lives were lost and no houses or businesses were permanently destroyed. Most of the flooding in the City occurred in low-lying areas, particularly downstream from the old C.P.R. bridge.

The worst flooding of the downtown area of Red Deer occurred when Waskasoo Creek burst its banks in April 1901. The primary cause was spring break-up, but heavy rains kept the flood levels up for a considerable length of time.

A very large lake formed along the south side of town, extending from Eccles (47) St. to the base of the south, Mountview and Grandview hills. All of the east side of Parkvale (Barrett Park area) was inundated. Piper’s Mountain, in what is now Rotary Park, became an island in the large flooded area. Several old creek beds north of Eccles (47) St. became full with the floodwaters, which then surged northwards towards the Red Deer River.

There was widespread damage. A large section of the C.P. railroad track, particularly along Waskasoo Creek south of 43 St., was washed out. The William Pearson house, on the corner of Gaetz Ave. and Eccles (47) St. was submerged for at least a week. Several other homes to the east were inundated. Some families had to be rescued by boat and canoe.

As can often happen, even during disasters, children were able to make sport of the awful conditions. The local Red Deer Echo newspaper wrote “Great fun for the boys. The short roads to the school may be impassable for pedestrians, but not for boys. Great fun is being had by the juveniles of both sexes from a raft constructed from a piece of wooden sidewalk running along Stewart (53) St. With this, they ferry to and from school, their motto now being ‘wet feet and lots of fun.’”

The schoolhouse at the time was located on the current Central School grounds, on the east side of 48 Ave., between Stewart (53) and Morrison (52) St. Fortunately, the schoolhouse was on higher ground and was not touched by the floods. However, the area now known as MacLean Field, north of Gaetz United Church, was another big lake. The floodwaters flowed from that temporary lake down an old creek bed and all the way over to Gaetz Ave.

Fortunately, over the years, Waskasoo Creek has been dredged and channels realigned. Nevertheless, the areas where the Lodge Hotel and Canada Safeway now stand have been flooded a few times in the last 40 years. Moreover, on two occasions, the bridge at the base of Spruce Dr. had to be closed due to flooding. Eventually, a new, higher bridge was constructed on 48 Ave.

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