Ottawa River poised to peak amid flooding in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick – CBC News

Ottawa River poised to peak amid flooding in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick - CBC News
Canadas spring floods, by the numbers
Severe spring flooding that has forced thousands of residents from their homes in Canada's eastern half refuses to let up in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.

Environment Canada has issued heavy rainfall warnings and special weather statements — with a mess of rain, sleet, snow and ice pellets possible across a wide section of the flood zones starting Tuesday night and continuing Wednesday.

In wake of severe flooding, Trudeau says country must talk about how and where to rebuild

Two thousand soldiers are deployed to flood zones where water has risen to historic levels in eastern and central Ontario, Quebec and along the swollen St. John River in southern New Brunswick, while annual flooding in the Kashechewan First Nation in northern Ontario remains a concern.

$1.9 billion: Insured damages from severe weather in Canada in 2018, the fourth-highest amount on record, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada

Eastern Canadians brace for several more days of historic flooding

Another 1,500 have been authorized to be sent to Ontario to help with historic flooding along the Ottawa River and in central Ontario cottage country towns like Bracebridge and Muskoka Lakes.

50: Centimetres the Ottawa River is forecast to be above 2017 flood levels, which were then a record, when the river crests mid-week

While many in these areas have been deploying sandbags to help cope with the flooding, researchers and consultants say they aren't necessarily the best solution.

2,000: Canadian Armed Forces troops now deployed to flood zones in Canada, half of whom are in Quebec

They say the sacks can be effective in flash floods or other situations where they won't be in contact with water for too long, but sandbags lose their effectiveness as soon as they become saturated with water, meaning they have limited impact during prolonged floods.

On CTV’s Question Period, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the program, called the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangement, has paid out more in the last six years than it did in the previous 40 years. He said the government would look at Quebec’s proposals, and referenced the decision in High River, Alta., to not allow redevelopment in flooded areas.

The Ottawa River should start to peak in some areas west of Ottawa-Gatineau on Tuesday, according to the Ottawa River Regulation Planning Board, which measures its water levels.

Some communities along the Ottawa River are already seeing waters higher than they saw in the 2017 flood.

Since the Liberals took office in late 2015, the government has approved almost $1.27 billion in funding for 41 projects deemed “disaster mitigation,” according to federal figures. The numbers show that only a handful of projects have started and many will take years to complete.

An estimated one million sandbags are standing between the Ottawa River and residences and businesses in Ottawa, and more are in place across the river in Gatineau, Que.

“(T)here is always much more to do and as we have conversations around how we build back, how we build back better and where we build back, indeed, the federal government will be a partner to the provinces and to the municipalities.”

But they may not be up to the task of holding back the water, which is expected to rise another 50 centimetres and not peak until later Tuesday or Wednesday. Municipal officials in Ottawa don't expect to be near cleanup mode until the Victoria Day long weekend.

Champagne plans to fast-track projects that could prevent flooding in areas currently under siege, but warned in a recent interview that not every project would be approved, particularly those that might not be able to hold back Mother Nature.

Conditions could make things difficult for those working to shore up properties against the floodwaters on Wednesday. Ottawa-Gatineau and areas to the west as far as Algonquin Park on the Ontario side of the river are expected to get two to five centimetres of snow, mixed with ice pellets, then 15 to 25 mm of rain.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday these extreme weather events will happen more often, and the government is fighting climate change and investing in climate-resilient infrastructure.

In the meantime, Trudeau suggested, the federal government needed to make sure future infrastructure spending hit the “right” projects to “protect our communities and ensure their prosperity long-term.”

The Insurance Bureau of Canada predicts the record flooding will push losses for homeowners from extreme weather to more than $1 billion this year.

Flooding is the most common disaster event in Canada and has been a focus of funding through the $2 billion, 10-year Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund that Infrastructure Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne oversees.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said in light of record flooding this spring, the federal government is talking with the provinces about investments in disaster mitigation and prevention efforts.

Federal assistance to provinces for natural disaster costs is estimated to be $198.35 million this fiscal year, which ends March 2020, even though last year’s estimates pegged the cost at $609 million.

Increasingly, communities are looking at relocating people living in high-risk areas instead of paying year after year to help them rebuild.

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.

Areas along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, which are seeing some flooding but not at historic levels, could get 20 to 40 mm of rain.

Some people will be able to return to their homes in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, Que., on Tuesday afternoon after floodwaters breached a dike Saturday and forced about 6,000 to flee.

The evacuation order will be lifted in certain areas of the town located northwest of Montreal, and Mayor Sonia Paulus said residents from "these areas will need to present identification and receive clearance before returning home." The order won't include a section of Sainte-Marthe that remains submerged.

“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.”

The island of Montreal and Laval remain in states of emergency, a measure giving authorities the power to seize property and force evacuations, while officials in Quebec say the data available suggests the risk of flooding on several rivers across the province remains high.

Thousands of people have been forced from their homes, including 9,500 in Quebec — two-thirds of them in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, west of Montreal, after fleeing water from the Lake of Two Mountains that burst through a natural dike Saturday — and more are being urged to leave before water cuts them off from help.

The province reported over 6,400 flooded homes, a further 3,500 surrounded by water and more than 10,000 evacuees — most of them from Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac.

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.

The St. John River from Fredericton to Saint John is still expected to be above flooding levels Tuesday, but the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization said the river is receding slowly.

Water levels might be receding, but there's still no sign of when the Trans-Canada Highway will reopen between Oromocto and River Glade, N.B., according to the company that manages the stretch of highway. This is the second year in a row the major highway has closed due to flooding.

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.

PreviousNextHide captionToggle Fullscreen1 of 0Canada's defence minister visited the Saint John area yesterday to view the activities of military personnel helping in the response effort.

The mammoth military response now stands at 2,000 soldiers in flood-ravaged regions that have requested help, compared to about 1,600 deployed overseas. Sajjan said Monday that more could be sent if cities that have declared states of emergency ask for additional troops.

HarjitSajjan says if the impact of climate change disasters continues to worsen, he may have to increase the number of Canadian Forces personnel available.

First Nations leaders called on the Ontario and federal governments Monday to help relocate the community of Kashechewan as it deals with annual flooding — a problem one said would have already been solved if it involved a non-Indigenous population.

The northern Ontario community of 2,500 first flooded in 1976 and has been evacuated annually for the past several years while it waits for the federal government to fulfil its promises to move residents to a permanent new location.

"Both levels of government — Ontario and Canada — has allowed this to be normalized," said Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Derek Fox. "I believe personally that if these were non-native, non-First Nations people, action would have happened a lot sooner. I sincerely believe that."

The mayor of Bracebridge said he's hoping tomorrow's weather forecast doesn't play out as expected. Environment Canada issued a rainfall warning for the swath of central Ontario that's been struggling to cope with flooding in recent days.

Mayor Graydon Smith said 25 to 30 mm could fall on Bracebridge tomorrow, with the possibility of a little more rain on Thursday. Smith says an additional 60 military personnel are coming to the region today to help with flood conditions, making a total of 160 soldiers in the area.

Four municipalities have declared states of emergency in central Ontario, while further east the Ontario government has activated disaster recovery assistance for the county of Renfrew and the city of Pembroke.

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