Strong wind forecast prompts flood watch for Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair areas

A gale warning by Environment Canada for Lake Erie has prompted the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority to issue a flood watch as flood waters are starting to subside on the Thames River.

Sections of Erie Shore Drive near Erieau were flooded on Sunday October, 27, 2019 after powerful send waves crashing over breakwalls and other flood protection infrastructure. (Ellwood Shreve/Chatham Daily News)

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A gale warning by Environment Canada for Lake Erie has prompted the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority to issue another flood watch even as flood waters continue to subside on the Thames River.

Weather forecasts are calling for strong winds from the southeast overnight Friday, switching to the south Saturday morning and then southwest in the afternoon, with peak winds from 40 to 50 kilometres per hour and gusts up to 75 km/h.

“It is during this period that winds are most likely to have an impact on the Lake Erie shoreline,” the conservation authority said.

The flood watch noted winds are expected to switch to a westerly direction overnight Saturday and eventually shift to the northwest Sunday afternoon, dropping into the 30 km/h range, which could impact the Lake St. Clair shoreline.

Waves are expected to exceed one metre in height on Lake Erie for most of this event but could reach three metres Saturday night.

Forecasts also call for waves reaching up to a metre high on Sunday on Lake St. Clair.

Temperatures are also predicted to be beneath the freezing point for much of the weekend, except for Saturday afternoon and early evening.

There is a risk waves could damage shoreline protection works and cause erosion along the Lake Erie shoreline in Chatham-Kent and Elgin County, including along the high bluff areas, the conservation authority warned.

Flooding should also be expected in low-lying shoreline areas such as along Erie Shore Drive near Erieau.

Waves could also damage shoreline protection works and cause erosion and flooding along the Lake St. Clair shoreline in Lighthouse Cove and in Chatham-Kent on the east side of the lake.

“Lake St. Clair water levels have recently risen, increasing the risk of flooding from the canals in Lighthouse Cove as the winds push the lake water into the community,” the authority stated. “In addition, the freezing temperatures means that wave spray and flood waters could freeze against structures and across the ground. This could block building exits, seal up exhaust vents from homes, or lead to treacherous walking and driving conditions. Residents should pay attention to local conditions and be prepared.”

People are advised to take extra caution and avoid the shoreline should conditions get rough. The waves can be strong and the shoreline slippery.

Flooding shoreline areas can be especially hazardous in freezing conditions, the conservation authority cautioned. There could also be hazardous debris within the waves and water that could be thrown onto the shore. Standing water can also present unseen hazards. Children and animals should be kept away from the water.