Ottawa declares state of emergency as water keeps rising – CBC News

Ottawa declares state of emergency as water keeps rising - CBC News
City of Ottawa declares state of emergency as flood levels projected to rise above 2017 peak
The City of Ottawa has declared a state of emergency as river levels continue to rise, threatening to surpass those reached when flooding devastated some neighbourhoods two years ago.

We can no longer do it alone.- Ottawa Mayor Jim WatsonEnvironment Canada has issued a special weather statement predicting up to 35 millimetres of rain by Saturday morning, and river authorities are now forecasting that in some areas, the water could rise up to 11 centimetres above peak levels reached in May 2017.

Watson said he's also asked for help from the Canadian Armed Forces, and has been told 400 troops will be deployed to key areas.

“The situation in Gatineau and the other side of the river is much worse. We have over 500 volunteers. We have city resources at all the sites and a number of different community organizations working on it. If the desire and the need is there and can be shown, then obviously I’ll make a call to the minister of national defence, but it’s not necessary at this point.”

"We can no longer do it alone," Watson said. "We are now beyond our city's capacity, and that is why we have called in the Armed Forces."

In Ottawa, Anthony Di Monte, the general manager of emergency and protective services, provided a brief update to council Wednesday, saying it’s hard to predict when the river will peak because it largely depends on the amount of rainfall and snow melt upriver. The peak could happen Sunday or Monday, he said, but it’s difficult to be accurate.

City manager Steve Kanellakos said the city felt prepared until the latest forecast from Environment Canada.

For the Lake Coulonge to Lac Deschênes stretch, levels will continue to increase, with major flood levels exceeded for the first time on Wednesday. From Ottawa and Gatineau down to Hawkesbury, water levels are expected to be stable, then rise rapidly later in the week. Peak levels similar to those observed in May 2017 are possible in all locations.

"I can say with certainty that the flooding situation has changed almost in the blink of an eye," he said.

“Yes, we expect a second peak,” Michael Sarich, senior water resources engineer with the Ottawa River Regulation Planning Board, said in an interview Tuesday. “But unfortunately we can’t predict what that will look like. We know we have a lot of snow in the northern regions and it’s just beginning to melt.

"I cannot tell you how long we will be in this state of emergency. If the flooding is severe there could be weeks of recovery operations."

Premier Doug Ford has also pledged the provincial government's support, and will visit the region on Friday.  

“I can say with certainty that the flooding situation has changed almost in a blink of an eye,” Kanellakos said. “The number of requests for help is increasing and the flooding threat is imminent. We are reaching our capacity in terms of enabling to deal with the service requests from our residents.”

While levels on the Rideau River have stabilized, the Ottawa River is expected to rise about half a metre from Constance Bay to east of Cumberland by the weekend, according to South Nation Conservation.

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Residents who need help on their properties to prepare for the expected flooding are asked to call 211 or phone 1-877-761-9076 to get in touch Team Rubicon Canada and Ottawa Volunteer Search and Rescue (OVSAR). Both organizations are prepared to to help residents prepare sandbag walls or to help with cleanup.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency for the city in response to flooding and the rainfall forecast for the coming days. He said the Canadian Armed Forces have also been requested.

The City of Ottawa has declared a state of emergency as water levels along the Ottawa River are expected to rise above the flood levels in 2017 that were “devastating” to many communities bordering the river, Mayor Jim Watson announced on Thursday afternoon.

Environment Canada earlier on Thursday issued a special weather statement warning of “significant rainfall” in the Ottawa area totalling 20-35 millimetres between Friday morning and Saturday morning. This heavy precipitation coupled with the spring snowmelt has the Ottawa River Regulating Committee forecasting peak floods reaching 11 centimetres above 2017 levels in the Britannia/Lac Deschenes area on Sunday.

While the city has enough sand and sandbags to install in the affected areas, it no longer has enough manpower or time to meet residents’ needs in the face of the “worsening forecast,” officials said. Because of that, the municipality made the call to request support from the province and the Canadian Armed Forces, the mayor said.

But in a brief statement, the PM, accompanied by Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, said Canadians must face a “new reality” that the effects of climate change mean that events such as spring flooding “will be happening more and more frequently.”

“Our staff and volunteers have been at it for many days now, but we can no longer do it alone,” Watson said.

Watson expects up to 400 troops to arrive Friday. They’ll begin in western communities since West Carleton, Constance Bay, Dunrobin and Fitzroy Harbour seem to be the most impacted so far. Troops will also be available to help in Cumberland and Britannia.

The communities most threatened by rising water levels include Cumberland, located east of downtown Ottawa, and Britannia and Constance bays, located west of the downtown core.

Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, said there are infectious risks that come with severe flooding, such as contamination to well water, and the physical and mental exhaustion that comes with trying to protect properties.

The provincial and federal governments have agreed to the city’s plea for help, according to Watson. The municipality hopes to have about 400 members of the military assisting with sandbag installation around homes at risk of flooding, with the first troops arriving on Friday morning, officials said.

Anthony Di Monte, the general manager of emergency and protective services, urged people not to show up in the flood-impacted communities to sightsee since it could get in the way of the city and soldiers trying to help people.

As of 2 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, the city had received a total of 180 service requests from homeowners — about 60 a day — according to senior staff.

Among 84 closed roads across the province is a stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway between Oromocto and River Glade. Everyone from community volunteers to federal officials and Canadian Armed Forces are pitching in to help – even federal fisheries officers are aiding evacuation efforts in Fredericton, Quispamsis and St. George.

As recently as Wednesday morning, city staff felt they had enough resources to cope with the rising water levels along the Ottawa River — but, with the new forecasts, the flooding situation changed “almost in the blink of an eye” city manager Steve Kanellakos told reporters.

The office of Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says the combination of already high water levels and further rainfall give rise to a situation that constitutes a danger of major proportions that could result in serious harm. It said the water levels pose an ongoing threat to property, health and safety of nearby residents.

Kanellakos couldn’t say how long the City of Ottawa will be in a state of emergency, which gives the municipality the authority to buy any supplies that are urgently needed without going through the normal tendering processes.

Water levels were predicted to reach 5.6 metres in Saint John Thursday, and the provincial government warned residents that the waters are still expected to rise as the Saint John River continues to swell. Officials reiterated previous warnings for residents to get out before conditions get worse.

“If the flooding is severe, there could be weeks of recovery operations, but our commitment to residents is the city will be there to help,” Kanellakos said.

Greg MacCallum of the Emergency Measures Organization is urging patience during an event he expects is going to continue for a number of days more. He surveyed the flood zone by helicopter along with Premier Blaine Higgs, and said it resembles last years damage.

The mayor and city staff thanked the more than 1,200 volunteers who have “tirelessly” helped fill sandbags and supported other flood preparation efforts over the past week. They said the city still needs folks to lend a hand in the coming days.

Quebecs Public Security Department said as of 2 p.m. Wednesday, about 1,900 homes across the province were flooded and 515 people have been forced to leave. Its the second bout of major spring flooding in three years in Gatineau and area.

“Ottawa has a lot of heart and these volunteers come out over and over again, just as recently as the tornado last fall,” Kanellakos said.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited an evacuation centre in Gatineau and told media Canadians and their governments need to adapt to the reality of more frequent flooding due to climate change.

Volunteer check-in locations can be found on the city’s website. City officials urge residents to steer clear of volunteer and military operations over the weekend.

Many roads in the Bracebridge area, in Ontarios cottage country, have been washed out by floodwaters as two nearby lakes are have water levels that exceed those last seen during serious flooding in 2013.

Watson said he spoke to both Ralph Goodale, federal minister for public safety and emergency protection, and Ontario Premier Doug Ford earlier on Thursday.

In a tweet, Goodale confirmed Ontario’s Solicitor General Sylvia Jones will be “submitting a request for federal assistance with sandbagging in Eastern Ontario.”

Premier Francois Legault says the government will offer homeowners $200,000 to abandon homes that flood year after year, after capping flood relief compensation at $100,000 starting this year.

Ford, in a statement, said he will be coming to the national capital on Friday to tour the flooded areas and meet with residents.

“Anything Ottawa needs to help affected families and support city staff on the ground, the Province of Ontario will be there to support them,” the premier wrote. “My message to Mayor Watson and the people of Ottawa is this: together, we will get through this.”

Watson said it’s too early to tell how much the escalating flood response will cost the municipality, but staff said the city has already started tracking expenses.

About 400 soldiers are being deployed in Ottawa to assist with flooding efforts in the city as water levels on the Ottawa River rise to dangerous levels.

“This is not the time to be the bean counter,” the mayor said. “We’re going to help the people first before we worry about the bills.”

Ahead of Watson’s declaration of a state of emergency, the City of Ottawa said it’s opening three emergency community support centres for residents affected by flooding in the Cumberland, Bay and West Carleton-March wards.

Houses and roads are seen flooded as the Saint John River overflows its banks in the area surrounding Fredericton, New Brunswick on April 22, 2019.

The centres will be staffed with representatives from Ottawa Public Health, the city’s community and social services department, the Salvation Army and the Canadian Red Cross, according to the city.

The communities of Bracebridge and Minden HIlls have declared a state of emergency and advising residents in areas prone to flooding to relocate.

The West Carleton-March Community Support Centre opened earlier on Thursday afternoon and the Bay and Cumberland centres will open mid-morning on Friday.

Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith was joined at a news conference Wednesday by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, whose family has a cottage in the area.

The city says residents can find flood updates on the city’s website and call can also call 311 if they have questions.

As for sandbags, the city’s general manager of emergency and protective services, Anthony Di Monte, said sand and empty bags are available across the city.

“We will continue to have ample stocks for residents,” he said on Thursday. “More than 200,000 sandbags have been made available as of this morning.”

In an update on Wednesday, the city said approximately 190,000 sandbags had either been filled or been placed outside at-risk homes.

The Ottawa River Regulating Committee is projecting that water levels are going to surpass those experienced in May 2017 this weekend.