Quebec officials warn of possible dam failure on Rouge River, affecting 250 people – CTV News

Quebec officials warn of possible dam failure on Rouge River, affecting 250 people - CTV News
With Quebec dam at risk of failing, evacuation ordered on Rouge River in western Laurentians
Michelle Belanger wades through floodwaters Wednesday, April 24, 2019 in Laval, Que. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz)

MONTREAL — Quebec public security officials called for the immediate evacuation of an area along the Rouge River downstream of Chute Bell on Thursday because of a risk of dam failure.

Le niveau maximal est atteint pour le barrage de la #ChuteBell, sur la Rivière-Rouge. Nous avons recommandé à @secpubliqueqc l'évacuation d'environ 50 résidences du secteur. En rejoignant la rivière des Outaouais 18km + loin, ce débit aura un impact minimal sur les zones en aval. pic.twitter.com/rVc3o6m5yK

Quebec issues evacuation order in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge as dam could burst

The largely rural section of river affected is in Quebecs Lower Laurentians region, stretching about 18 kilometres south to the Ottawa River.

“Police are using all the means at their disposal to ensure people’s safety,” said the Sûreté du Québec on Twitter. “We ask residents of the areas affected by forced evacuations to co-operate with the authorities.”

An alert was issued at 3:36 p.m. Thursday calling on people in the area to avoid river valleys and low-lying areas.

Quebec’s Public Security Ministry warns a hydroelectric dam in the Laurentians could fail due to flooding and has issued an evacuation order for the area.

Quebec provincial police tweeted they were helping about 250 people get clear of the affected area as a preventive measure.

Hydro-Quebec added through social media that its Chute Bell dam had reached its maximum level and the utility recommended that public security officials evacuate about 50 residences in the area.

“Avoid places near rivers, valleys and low areas,” the alert reads. “Follow the instructions of the local authorities.”

The public utility said that after joining up with the Ottawa River, the flow would have minimal impact on locations downstream.

The dam failure alert will be maintained until 11:45 p.m. Thursday, according to the Quebec public security website.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault tweeted those at risk had been advised and provincial authorities are keeping close tabs on the situation in a tweet.

The dam failure alert will be maintained until 11:45 p.m. Thursday, according to the Quebec public security website.

The warning comes as many parts of Quebec have been hit by flooding. Officials say the flood risk remains high because of a combination of precipitation in the forecast and melting snow to the north.

On Thursday, Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault toured the Lachute area, northwest of Montreal, where flood waters on the Riviere du Nord have risen in recent days.

She said she was impressed with the level of preparation in smaller communities and was satisfied that the number of people on the ground working on flood relief — which includes nearly 1,000 Canadian soldiers — was sufficient.

Youre going to see more firefighters, youre going to see more police officers and more municipal workers to help for floods that could come this weekend, said Martin Guilbault, operations chief of the Montreal fire department.

Quebec public security officials said more than 2,500 homes were flooded and more than 2,100 were isolated Thursday, meaning they were considered cut off due to washed out roads or landslides.

She said she was impressed with the level of preparation in smaller communities and was satisfied that the number of people on the ground working on flood relief – which includes nearly 1,000 Canadian soldiers – was sufficient.

In Montreal, officials raised the security level and increased the number of teams on the ground amid fears flooding could get worse in the coming days but stressed the situation was under control.

The warning comes as many parts of Quebec have been hit by flooding. Officials say the flood risk remains high because of a combination of precipitation in the forecast and melting snow to the north.

"Youre going to see more firefighters, youre going to see more police officers and more municipal workers to help for floods that could come this weekend," said Martin Guilbault, operations chief of the Montreal fire department.

In Montreal, officials raised the security level and increased the number of teams on the ground amid fears flooding could get worse in the coming days but stressed the situation was under control.

Mayor Valerie Plante warned that anyone who was flooded in 2017 should prepare their homes for more flooding — and possible evacuation — if they havent done so.

Hydro-Quebec added through social media that its Chute Bell dam had reached its maximum level and the utility recommended that public security officials evacuate about 50 residences in the area.

"The threat is actually very concrete and direct and this is the message we want to send the entire population," she said.

Quebec public security officials said more than 2,500 homes were flooded and more than 2,100 were isolated Thursday, meaning they were considered cut off due to washed out roads or landslides.

Environment Canada issued a rainfall warning for Montreal with 30 to 50 millimetres expected Friday and Saturday.

On Thursday, Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault toured the Lachute area, northwest of Montreal, where flood waters on the Riviere du Nord have risen in recent days.

Rain is expected to begin southern Quebec midday Friday and intensify overnight, spreading eastward.

In Ottawa, Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency Thursday afternoon, calling in the Canadian Forces to help with flood protection.

Mayor Valerie Plante warned that anyone who was flooded in 2017 should prepare their homes for more flooding – and possible evacuation – if they havent done so.

Quebec's Public Security Ministry is warning that the hydroelectric dam at Bell Falls on the Rouge River in the western Laurentians region is at risk of failure. 

Quebec Premier Francois Legault tweeted those at risk had been advised and provincial authorities are keeping close tabs on the situation in a tweet.

The ministry is advising anyone down river from the dam to evacuate the area immediately and stay far away from waterways, valleys and low-lying areas.

The largely rural section of river affected is in Quebecs Lower Laurentians region, stretching about 18 kilometres south to the Ottawa River.

Francis Labbé, a spokesperson for the utility, said its engineers believed the dam would not break, but that current water levels and expected rain legally obliged them to give an evacuation order for those downstream.

Quebec provincial police said round 30 residences are being evacuated, and some 250 people are being ordered to leave the area.

The public utility said that after joining up with the Ottawa River, the flow would have minimal impact on locations downstream.

If the dam ruptures, it will take around 45 minutes for floodwaters to reach those buildings under the evacuation order, police said.

The threat is actually very concrete and direct and this is the message we want to send the entire population, she said.

Police said they are using "all the means at their disposal to ensure people's safety." 

"We are asking residents of areas affected by forced evacuations to co-operate with the authorities," the Sûreté du Québec said on Twitter.

Francis Labbé, a spokesperson for Hydro-Québec, said the 10-megawatt dam was built to withstand water levels in the Rouge River that experts expect might occur once in 1,000 years.

"The problem is we're at this level now," Labbé said. "And we do know that in the next 24 hours or a bit more, we're going to receive a serious amount of rain.

"Because we're convinced that we're going to get much more water in this river than the dam is built to support, in this situation we cannot do anything else but warn the people that they should evacuate for their own safety."

Transports Québec has closed Highway 50 in both directions at Grenville-sur-la-Rouge. That highway, which links Gatineau to Highway 15 at Mirabel, crosses the Rouge River about 16 kilometres downstream from the dam, where the Rouge empties into the Ottawa River.

The evacuation order for the Grenville-sur-la-Rouge area comes as large swaths of Quebec and neighbouring eastern Ontario are dealing with spring floods. 

Ottawa declared a state of emergency on Thursday, while Montreal warned water levels could rise even higher this weekend.

Bell Falls, or Chute-Bell, is about 23 kilometres northwest of Grenville-sur-la-Rouge, Que., which is on the north side of the Ottawa river, across from Hawkesbury, Ont.

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