Their panic rose along with the surging waters. Only moments after dining on fried chicken with a glass of white wine, Lorraine Nadon and Maurice Labelle were fleeing their home in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, under insistent orders from police.
Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate, the cry came, setting off a mass migration of 6,000 people to seek higher ground. A dike holding back the floodwaters of the Lac des Deux Montagnes had burst, driving torrents of frigid water into town.
Video: Dike breach devastates Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac
21 shots of the devastating flooding across Quebec (PHOTOS)
On Monday afternoon, less than 48 hours after the catastrophe, Ms. Nadon stood in bright yellow coveralls amid army vehicles and flashing police sirens, and questioned what was next. She had just been allowed by authorities to pick up some documents in her home, only to find her basement waist-deep in water. The freezer, her winter clothes and about $15,000 worth of her husbands machinist tools were covered in water.
No respite from flood threat for thousands in 3 provinces
The town west of Montreal has produced some of the most dramatic flooding that has swept across Quebec, New Brunswick and part of Ontario. Floodwaters across eastern Canada are expected to crest midweek, but authorities in Quebec warn it could be weeks before lakes and rivers return to their normal levels.
The plight of the evacuees in Sainte-Marthe has turned up vexing questions about the safety of aging infrastructure, and what unstable weather will mean in the future. The dike was built in the 1970s after severe flooding. Now, after catastrophic failure, one third of the towns residents have been forced from their homes.
People survey the flood risk as work is done to hold back floodwaters on the Ottawa River in Britannia Bay, Ont.
We need a dike worthy of its name, said Ms. Nadon, a bank auditor. Was there due diligence about upkeep? How do we ensure its solid enough, especially with the floods were seeing everywhere?
More than 9,500 Quebecers have been forced to evacuate their homes and Premier François Legault has announced that the Quebec government will pledge $1 million to the Canadian Red Cross to help aid victims.
Broken Quebec dike forces 2,600 evacuations northwest of Montreal
The town of 18,000 said late Monday that evacuees in the least affected zones would be able to return to their homes on Tuesday. Others will not be so lucky. Along the perimeter of the flood zone, residents gathered behind orange police tape to watch, helplessly, the floodwaters breach their homes. Mixed among faces of worry were pictures of relief. Alain Dolbec sat in his wheelchair with a shaking cocker spaniel named Mandy on his lap. The dog was one of several rescued by officials from off-limit homes on Monday.
The material stuff can be replaced. The animals cant be, said Mr. Dolbec, who fled with his wife after the evacuation order landed. Two cats and the dog were left behind and Mr. Dolbec was inconsolable. Hes my baby, he said as he kissed the pet on the head.
Canadas spring floods, by the numbers
The floods have also led to questions about life near the water. Some see the floods as part of a trend of severe weather events that they believe will become more frequent with climate change.
Its the apocalypse, said Norma Lanteigne, who stood behind police tape a few hundred yards from her flooded home. She abandoned the house with her husband with just enough time to fill a grocery bag with some underwear and toiletries. They slept in the car on Friday and found refuge in a shelter for two nights.
The Ottawa River isn’t expected to peak until mid-week, after rising by another 50 cm. What happens after that, as in other regions, depends on the weather. Forecasts call for between 35 and 50 mm of rain toward the end of the week and depending on where it falls – the Ottawa River drains about 140,000 square kilometres of eastern Ontario and western Quebec – and how long the river takes to recede, there could be a second flood peak.
It scares you, said Ms. Lanteigne, a retired production-line worker. Its going to get worse and worse in the coming years. The planet is warming. Glaciers are melting. Its the result of negligence. And we aint seen nothing yet.
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.
He said some people had refused to heed the evacuation order, and the military had come across one family that had built barricades around their home, which were holding the waters at bay for now. We cant order people to leave, he said. But he cautioned that residents face potential danger in a flooded home from electricity, which is currently powered off in the flood zone.
We’re looking at this day-to-day, said Col. Jason Adair, whose brigade is spread from the east to west edges of the national capital. Our mandate is crystal clear and that is to provide sandbagging, or sandbags at the right place and the right time … and anything beyond that, we’re just not there right now.
No respite from flood threat – Canada News
The disaster across Quebec has led provincial leaders to underscore the risks of building homes in environmentally sensitive zones.
Theres no question of allowing new constructions in flood zones. We have to redefine what flood zones are, Premier François Legault said on Monday. He said part of Sainte-Marthe was built on lower ground, a little like a swimming pool. Some people might have to be moved, the Premier said.
Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault said that while the most critical phase of flooding in Quebec was over, waters would recede very slowly and authorities would remain vigilant.
For the evacuees in Sainte-Marthe, a town that grew out of a cottage community, all that mattered was a place to sleep, some dry clothes and the hope of a salvageable home to which they could return. Sébastien Côté said the atmosphere around his home on Saturday night was like a war zone. Before buying his home a dozen years ago, hed received assurances it wasnt in a flood zone. Now, he faced a new, uncertain reality. Its a shock, he said, standing next to police tape with his daughters aged 8 and 11. I never thought it could happen here.
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Dike in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac was inspected, but failed anyway
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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 military’s orders have been to protect property, but Quebec Premier Francois Legault said Monday afternoon that he wants the troops to stay in the province once the waters subside to help remove the sandbags, which have to be carefully disposed of after being exposed to potentially contaminated water.
No respite from flood threat for thousands in Que., Ont., and N.B.
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.
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.
10,000 evacuated in Canada floods as rescuers search for pets
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.
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.
After breached dike, Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac residents face uncertain future
Guilbault acknowledged that Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac sent a request to the Environment Ministry in February to have authorities improve the dike.
Thousands evacuated near Montreal as floods worsen
"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.
A total of about 9,500 are now out of their homes in Quebec — two-thirds of them in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac.
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.
Canada floods: Over 6,500 people evacuated as deluge worsens in Montreal; Justin Trudeau calls for…
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.
Quebec premier pledges $1M to Red Cross to aid flood victims
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.
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.
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.
Thousands forced to flee homes in Montreal after flooding causes dike to burst
"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.
Sgt. Daniel Thibaudeau of the Quebec provincial police said the water rose so quickly that totally submerged cars could be seen Sunday morning, and the water was at the level of ground-floor windows in some homes.
Is your community ready to deal with an environmental disaster?
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.
"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.
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.
“Right now it’s a mix of emotions: we laugh, we cry, we think about our home and whether it’ll be OK,” Ricard said. “We don’t know anything. We can’t see anything. How high is the water? What have we lost?”
"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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