Floods hit Western Canada, more rain on the way

Mon Jun 21, 2010 5:14pm EDT
 
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CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Large swathes of two Western Canadian provinces were under flood alerts on Monday as renewed heavy rain threatened to raise river levels that have already swamped homes, businesses and farms.

The usually dry region of southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan has already seen extensive flooding following weeks of heavy rain.

A few days of clear weather had begun to lower water levels, but more heavy rain has begun falling in the region, with forecasters predicting as much as 40 mm (1.6 inches) in coming days.

"The rivers that had been falling are rising again," said Carrie Sancartier, a spokeswoman for Alberta's Environment Department.

The South Saskatchewan River, which flows through Medicine Hat, Alberta, the largest city in the region, is under a flood watch. The city of 60,000 has declared a state of emergency and evacuated residents in low-lying areas.

The small town of Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, population 2,600, was also hard hit by flooding, according to media reports. The first serious flood the town has seen in more than half a century damaged roads and swamped homes and businesses.

The floodwaters have closed a section of the Trans-Canada Highway near the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, severed some of the region's rail links and prevented farmers from sowing crops.

The wet weather has driven up U.S. wheat, soybean and oat futures, along with ICE Canada canola futures, for the past two weeks. Canada is normally the world's largest exporter of spring wheat, durum and canola, and is the second-largest oats producer after Russia.

Most Canadian crop planting has ended, with Sunday, June 20, being the Prairies' final crop insurance deadline for seeding. However, wet weather continues to support grain and oilseed futures because young plants sitting under water are likely to produce lower yields than normal.

($1=$1.02 Canadian)

(Reporting by Scott Haggett and Rod Nickel)