Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

MAROONED – Jesse Kirby has some fun at the intersection of Second Avenue and Lambert Street after Wednesday afternoon’s record downpour. Many intersections throughout the city were in this condition.

Storm slammed, slowed commuters

As downtown and Riverdale residents made their way home late Wednesday afternoon under a record amount of rain accompanied by thunder and lightning, Bill Miller was barbecuing at his house in Porter Creek.

By Stephanie Waddell on June 16, 2005

“I could see it all to the east,” the weather service specialist with Environment Canada said in an interview this morning.

His wife arrived home talking about the massive amount of hail and rainfall hitting Riverdale.

By 5:30 p.m., Miller said, the precipitation was hitting their neighbourhood.

Downtown rush hour traffic was slowed as drivers tried to avoid the flooding at Second Avenue and Lambert Street, and Second Avenue and Quartz Road, among other locations.

Miller said the storm saw a record amount of precipitation for June 15, at 26.8 millimeters, since records began being kept in 1942.

It also marked the city’s second-heaviest one-day rainfall in recorded history. The current holder of the record is a day in 1985, when 44.9 millimeters drenched the area.

Yesterday’s rainfall put this June 2.9 points behind the average rainfall of 29.7 millimetres for the month.

Miller said the strange thing about the storm is though there was a risk of thunder showers due to the warm weather, there wasn’t anything specific to have caused such an extreme result.

The odd weather began around noon in the Carmacks area.

“And then it just spread (south),” Miller said.

Within 50 kilometres of Whitehorse from the time the storm started there around 4 p.m. until the last reported lightning strike within the same distance at 6:24 p.m., Miller said, 77 strikes were counted.

Though he doesn’t have exact figures on lightning strikes, they seemed like a high number to the long-time weather specialist.

Territorial fire crews haven’t received any reports of fires caused by Wednesday’s lightning, Wildland Fire Management spokeswoman Paula Webber said this morning.

She pointed out there would likely be a fixed-wing patrol sent out later in the morning to ensure there are no such blazes.

Gardens were pummelled, and hail stones were reported on some local lawns as late as this morning. Panicked pets dashed around some homes as the lightning flashed and the thunder crashed.

Drivers fooled by the calm morning and early afternoon periods and who hadn’t rolled up their vehicle windows returned to sodden seats.

Just as Miller was able to avoid much of the storm on his bike ride home, the weather didn’t have a major impact on electricity around the city.

“We escaped,” Ed Sager, Yukon Electrical Co. Ltd.’s spokesman, said this morning. He added he was sure to have his phone on during the storm in case any calls came in about power outages due to the storm.

As Sager prepared for a possible call on electricity, city staff were kept on their toes dealing with flooding and other problems which came the city’s way thanks to the sudden deluge.

“It overwhelmed the storm system,” Brian Crist, the city’s manager of public works, said this morning.

Crews were called in to deal with the downtown flooding. In addition to the Second Avenue locations, flooding also occurred on Third Avenue behind the High Country Inn, near Spook Creek and a section behind Baxter Street.

Those working at Second Avenue and Quartz Road “got kind of a double whammy,” Crist said, in that they had to deal with flooding and one of the traffic lights that went out.

Despite the difficult driving conditions, Whitehorse RCMP spokesman Sgt. John Sutherland said today there weren’t any accidents reported due to the storm.

Drivers were also faced with flooded parts of Riverdale. City employees were called in to deal with sections of Alsek Road at Blanchard Road, Pelly Road and Lewes Boulevard, Crist said.

There were also numerous flooded basements and garages. One home had a basement full of water from the rainfall.

“We did get some calls,” Crist said of homeowners around town.

Though it’s normally the homeowners’ responsibility to deal with flooded basements and garages, he said the city is doing what it can to help those with such problems. This has meant draining some driveways.

There were also some electrical problems with a reservoir level control which had to be fixed, Crist said, noting new controls were put on.

The storm system is designed to handle the average amount of rain falling in Whitehorse, he explained.

While the city’s storm systems are back running properly again, the work isn’t over for city crews.

Crist noted workers were tasked today with fixing up the sloughing and erosion which occurred on some roadways, such as the walkway along Robert Service Way, thanks to the heavy rainfall.

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