As floodwaters began to recede across the province Monday, Premier François Legault warned those hoping to restore their homes to their past splendour to think twice before doing so.
“I want to insist that people who have serious damage should seriously think about moving (out of the flood zone),” Legault told reporters while on a tour of the Mauricie town of Maskinongé, which was one of the first areas affected by spring flooding that swelled the Rivière Sud-Ouest.
For Quebec flood victims, the environmental disaster is far from over
In a few minutes, this year’s flood became the worst recorded in the history of the province, when more than 6,000 people fled their homes in a matter of hours in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac over the weekend when a dike breached, and water covered one third of the homes in the small town.
“I want to assure people that the worst is behind us,” Legault said. “For now, what’s important is to take care of people and to ensure, along with the Red Cross, that everyone has a place to stay.”
Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault warned the road to recovery will be long and challenging.
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“I want to prepare people to arm themselves with patience,” Guilbault told a news conference Monday. “The lowering of water levels will be slow and take time. We need to be aware of that and prepare for it.”
No respite from flood threat for thousands in 3 provinces
As of Monday night, more 10,149 people had left their homes across the province, compared to roughly 4,000 in the historic floods of 2017. A total of 6,681 homes had been flooded and another 3,488 cut off from their communities by floodwaters. In Montreal, 94 residences were flooded on Monday, 49 were surrounded by water and 55 were evacuated.
Guilbault congratulated emergency responders across the province for excellent work since the disaster began.
“It’s been 10, 11 days, even more for some, that people have been hard at work day and night, day after day,” she said. “Thank you, everyone.”
Armed Forces personnel patrolled Saint-Marthes flooded streets, producing surreal images of hulking armoured patrol military vehicles lumbering past quaint suburban houses. Master Corporal Edward Bergeron said the army began receiving alerts of pillaging inside homes soon after evacuations had begun. Soldiers had turned up no signs of theft.
Guilbault said the province is keeping an especially close eye on the situation in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, where Mayor Sonia Paulus said authorities reported a drop in water levels overnight Sunday, and some will be permitted to return to their homes on Tuesday afternoon.
Trucks have been dumping gravel on streets in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac after a dike was breached. John Kenney / Montreal Gazette
Following Ottawa and many smaller communities in Quebec and Ontario, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante declared a state of emergency Friday afternoon in the face of flood threats that rose sharply Thursday after optimistic views earlier in the week that the worst had passed. Montreal city council held an emergency meeting Sunday afternoon, where they extended the state of emergency by five days. It was the first time since city hall was rebuilt in 1926 that Montreal city council was meeting outside the building.
Paulus said the town had been working since 2017 to reinforce the dike that failed, but had been waiting for permission from the environment ministry.
No respite from flood threat for thousands in Que., Ont., and N.B.
Asked about that Monday, Legault said an application was made to the Quebec government in February for work that would have been done in the fall of 2019.
A photographer wades into the water on a flooded street in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac on Sunday. John Kenney / Montreal Gazette
First responders look on as a Canadian Forces armoured vehicle drives on a road towards the flood zone in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, Que., on Saturday, April 27, 2019. The road has been blocked due to a broken dike which has prompted officials to evacuate hundreds of people in the area. Ryan Remiorz / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Legault said the province will speed up access to funds for those who wish to rebuild their homes, hoping that it will be faster than in 2017. However, according to the new regime in place, those flooded will only get a lifetime maximum amount of $100,000 to repair flood damage. Those who wish to move will get up to $200,000 for their houses, $50,000 for the land, and compensation for their furniture, Legault said.
He added that the situation could be difficult for small towns like Maskinongé, because if hundreds take the province’s offer of compensation to move away, towns will be short property tax.
“I understand that it can be almost dramatic on the finances of the municipality, so we will have to ask questions about how we can help municipalities that will be affected,” Legault said. “We want to minimize damage in the long term and avoid Quebec taxpayers to pay repetitively for repairs. This is what we will figure out in the coming weeks.”
In the meantime, the Bell Falls dam on the Rouge River appeared to be holding up, as water levels dipped below critical and were expected to continue to decrease over the next few days.
“It’s still at 900 cubic metres per second (down from a high of 1,300 reached last week), and that’s nine times the average,” said Cendrix Bouchard, a spokesperson for Hydro-Québec. “We’re confident it can sustain that level of pressure.”
He said the order to force 50 people from their homes downriver as a precautionary measure will stand at least for the next few days.
These include: protecting our wetlands, watersheds and forests; greening paved areas to prevent runoff and increase soil absorption; changing building codes to create structures better able to withstand rising waters; and altering zoning laws that stipulate where buildings can be constructed. Sometimes nature is itself the best defence against the ravages of nature.
As of Sunday, the Red Cross had taken charge of roughly 1,000 Quebecers, with about two-thirds relocated to hotels. About 100 volunteers and more than 30 staff are providing support in 11 municipalities and are monitoring the needs of 22 other communities.
The weather forecast calls for two more episodes of rain on Wednesday and Friday. The rain will be accompanied by warmer weather, with temperatures reaching 12 to 15 C on Thursday.
Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world; the Arctic, three times as fast. With climate change comes more extreme weather — hotter, colder, wetter and dryer at different points. And as we experience these devastating effects today around the Island of Montreal, projections suggest things will get worse.
Thousands of people across Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick are facing several more days of flooding as waters rise to record levels in some regions and slowly recede in others.
Efforts to hold back the water have seen thousands of volunteers, residents and military troops race to protect homes from rising waters; the closure of bridges and roads including one connecting Ottawa to Gatineau, Que., across the Ottawa River; and evacuations of thousands of homes.
The most dire situation is in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, a suburb west of Montreal that was inundated Saturday night after the Lake of Two Mountains burst through a natural dike.
Climate Change Blamed as Flooding Forces Thousands to Evacuate in Canada
More than 5,000 residents were forced to grab what they could and flee as waist-high water filled their streets and homes. Another 1,500 people were evacuated from their homes the following day.
Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault said Monday the situation in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac is still being monitored closely, and the evacuation order is still in effect, but that some people will able to briefly return to their homes to get belongings, medication and pets.
No respite from flood threat – Canada News
The military has helped build one new dike in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac and is almost finished a second, said Guilbault, though she had no answer about why the dike in the bedroom community failed.
The record flooding is expected to push losses for homeowners from extreme weather to more than $1 billion this year – in all of 2018 the figure was close to $2 billion – which has led governments to look at alternative solutions in order to shield the taxpayer from the continued bailouts, said Craig Stewart, vice-president of federal affairs with the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
Trudeau says country must talk about how and where to rebuild after floods
Guilbault acknowledged that Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac sent a request to the Environment Ministry in February to have authorities improve the dike.
Someone needs to remove them and clean up, Legault told reporters on a visit to the flood zone in Maskinonge, about 100 kilometres northeast of Montreal. It’s not exactly in the job description of the army, but we are trying to insist to have the army there for clean-up operations and we are waiting for an answer from Ottawa.
10,000 evacuated in Canada floods as rescuers search for pets
"We are very vigilant regarding all dikes across Quebec. We have people all over the place to make surveillance," she said, adding that a temporary first dike has been erected, and a second is almost completed to ensure the water doesn't spread further.
No respite from flood threat for thousands in Que., Ont., and N.B.
A total of about 9,500 are now out of their homes in Quebec — two-thirds of them in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac.
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Thousands evacuated near Montreal as floods worsen
Quebec Premier François Legault visited the scene on Sunday and announced $1 million in immediate funding to the Red Cross to ensure the evacuees' immediate needs are met. He said it was "almost a miracle" that everyone was safe.
PreviousNextHide captionToggle Fullscreen1 of 0River to peak this weekAn estimated one million sandbags are standing between the bloated Ottawa River and residences and businesses in the capital. More are in place in Gatineau, Que., on the river's opposite bank. Even so, whole riverfront neighbourhoods are flooded.
As of Monday afternoon, Pierre Poirier, Ottawa's head of security and emergency management, said water levels are nearing 2017 flood peak levels, and the projection is for them to peak Wednesday at about 50 centimetres above 2017 levels. Other officials have said it could peak on Wednesday or Thursday.
The Chaudière Bridge — used by about 19,000 vehicles and 1,350 cyclists every day to get across the Ottawa River between Ottawa and Gatineau — remains closed.
Hydro Ottawa has opened up every span of its dam at Chaudière Falls, only the second time in its 100-year history it has been forced to do so.
Exo is advising commuters to try and carpool to the stations, but to be aware that they may have to park on nearby streets, and that extra spots are available in the Super C parking lot in Deux-Montagnes.
CBC News received special permission from Transport Canada and local officials to send a drone to capture footage of flooded areas in Gatineau just across the river from central Ottawa. Drones are not allowed within nine kilometres of flooded areas in Quebec.
Thousands forced from homes as dike ruptures in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac
Canadian Armed Forces personnel are also packing and stacking sandbags in central Ontario's cottage country where flooding has prompted the declaration of states of emergency in the communities of Bracebridge, Muskoka Lakes, Huntsville and Minden Hills. And more rain is forecast for the region later this week.
"This is still a multi-day event. We are not near the end, but maybe the finish line is coming into sight for some areas," Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith said Monday. He also said 30 more Canadian Forces members will be arriving to join the 60 who arrived Sunday.
The flooding also forced the closure of a bridge linking Ottawa and Gatineau. In a statement Saturday, Public Services and Procurement Canada announced that the Chaudiere Bridge would be closed to all pedestrians and vehicles starting at 6 a.m. Sunday, with traffic being redirected to the nearby Portage Bridge.
"I will say this every single time I have a chance to [talk] into a microphone: thank you very much from the bottom of our collective hearts, from everyone who's experiencing trouble right now. Your assistance has literally changed lives and saved the property that people have worked so hard to acquire."
Public officials in many places have asked more homeowners to consider leaving before the water makes some roads impassable. The military has deployed more members to combat flooding in Canada than to combat zones overseas, and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is promising even more to regions that need the help.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Monday that some 2,000 Canadian Forces personnel are currently deployed to flood zones.
Some of the affected areas have been hit for the first time, according to Conrad Sauvé, president and CEO of the Canadian Red Cross.
Broken Quebec dike forces hundreds of evacuations northwest of Montreal
"They've never been flooded, which is something new," Sauvé told CBC News on Monday. "We train our volunteers to make sure they detect some emotional signs as well and refer people to the appropriate support as well.
Is your community ready to deal with an environmental disaster?
Meanwhile, the forecast for southern New Brunswick calls for floodwaters to slowly recede in most areas this week; however, communities along the St. John River from Fredericton to Saint John remain above flood stage.
Defence Minister Sajjan visited Randolph Island in the Saint John area, where waters from the St. John River rose during heavy rainfall on Saturday. He is scheduled to meet with residents, local leaders and Canadian Forces deployed on the disaster response operation.
"We'll be here as long as we're needed," said Sajjan, who added that the province will not be billed by the military for its efforts.
"We don't put any dates onto this. This is all situation dependent on the ground, and the co-ordination that will happen — just like how the co-ordination was done to come here."
Officials in New Brunswick are urging patience as floodwaters recede in some regions, saying there's a long way to go before the response can become a recovery effort.
Emergency Measures said Monday that an aerial survey showed more than 16,000 properties experienced flooding, though the water did not reach every building in those areas.
More than 80 roads across the province remain closed because of flooding, including a major section of the Trans-Canada highway between Oromocto and Riverglade.
Wayne Tallon, director of Fredericton's Emergency Measures Organization, said he is optimistic the worst of this year's flooding is over.
"The good news is that we hope that's the height it'll reach, and it'll start going down," he told CBC New Brunswick.
The record flooding is expected to push losses for Canadian homeowners from extreme weather to more than $1 billion just four months in to this year. The figure was close to $2 billion for all of 2018.
That's led governments to look at "alternative solutions in order to shield the taxpayer from the continued bailouts," said Craig Stewart, vice-president of federal affairs with the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
Federal, provincial and territorial emergency-management ministers appear to be most interested in a British model that would see the people living in high-risk flood areas moved out of harm's way and a public insurance program maintained for the remainder of homes.
Quebec is offering $200,000 to people with deep damage to their homes to move out of flood zones, an idea that the federal Liberals say they'll also consider, along with spending on infrastructure to mitigate the effects of floods and extreme weather from climate change.
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