Quebec officials warn of possible dam failure on Rouge River –

Quebec officials warn of possible dam failure on Rouge River -
Ottawa declares state of emergency as water keeps rising
MONTREAL — Quebec public security officials called for the immediate evacuation of an area along the Rouge River west of Montreal on Thursday because of the risk a hydro dam could fail.

Simon Racicot, director of production and maintenance with Hydro-Quebec, told reporters the dam at Chute Bell was built to withstand what he called a millennial flood.

Making things worse is a special weather statement issued by Environment Canada for much of the nation’s capital calling for “significant rainfall” on Friday. The national weather watcher says rain, heavy at times, will move into the area Thursday night and and continue into Friday evening. Total rainfall amounts of 20 to 35 millimetres are forecast to fall by Saturday morning.

"That means a flood that happens every 1,000 years," Racicot said. Hydro workers discovered earlier in the day the millennial level of water had been reached.

"We are confident that the structure is solid," Racicot said. "But the protocols force us to warn people of the danger. We are entering into an unknown zone right now — completely unknown."

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.

The largely rural section of river affected is in Quebecs Lower Laurentians region, about 140 kilometres west of Montreal, stretching about 18 kilometres south to the Ottawa River.

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.

Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault told reporters Thursday evening the provinces hydro utility is confident the dam can hold back its current water reservoir and is structurally sound.

“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.

"But we are expecting more rain over the coming hours and days, so the water levels of the Rouge River can rise," she said in Montreal.

In the organization’s latest update regarding water levels throughout the region, it maintained that increasing snowmelt runoff and the significant rainfall forecast in the northern and central portions of the basin are expected to cause additional increases in flows and levels on the Ottawa River over the next few days.

Guilbault said there are 23 residences and 38 cottages in the evacuation zone along the river. Quebec provincial police tweeted they were helping about 250 people get clear of the affected area as a preventive measure.

“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.”

Hydro-Quebec said through social media that if the dam breaks, the water flow would have minimal impact on locations downstream once it joined with the Ottawa River.

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

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.

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

In the town of Saint-André-Avellin, Sylvain Meloche normally lives about 25 metres from the water’s edge, but the water is now lapping at his home. He has put out about 100 sandbags along the low-lying side of the property, nearest the river, and was moving around in a canoe Wednesday.

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.

Earlier on Thursday, Guilbault toured the Lachute area, northwest of Montreal, where flood waters on the Riviere du Nord have risen in recent days.

“Some of the resources we are promoting is how to deal with stressful events,” Etches said. “People in a middle of a crisis are working and actively problem-solving, but once they get past that there’s a huge period of recovery and people need support through that.”

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

“There’s always a safety factor in any design. The law on dam safety makes us define a certain level where we guarantee the dam and we have reached that level right now,” he said. “We’re entering an unknown zone, so we have to wait and see over the next few days.”

"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.

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.

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

At a press conference Thursday evening, Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault confirmed the evacuation of 23 principal residences and 38 cottages in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge.

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

“We’re confident today, because we’ve done frequent security analysis and this specific dam was designed for a flood once every thousand years,” he said.

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

Nous avons confiance que les installations pourront résister, mais lévacuation du secteur a été recommandée par mesure de précaution.

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

“It’s hard to know how many people live there, but the SQ is going door to door to make sure that all people who are there are evacuated,” she said.

Michelle Belanger wades through floodwaters Wednesday, April 24, 2019 in Laval, Que. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz)

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.

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.

"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."

Le débit traversant le #barrage de la Chute-Bell est fort important, soit 980m3/s et pourrait augmenter de 30% dans les prochains jours.

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

But even in a worst-case scenario, Racicot said impact downstream, where the Rouge meets the Ottawa River, would be minimal.

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

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

"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.  

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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