Spring melt, rains spawn floods in Ottawa, Montreal
Canadians already deluged by floodwaters in recent days braced for more rain over the weekend as federal and local authorities marshaled resources to help beleaguered residents.
Ottawa and Montreal are on alert as downpours are forecast. Eastern Ontario and western Quebec along the Ottawa River as well as other parts of those provinces have been particularly hit hard by rising waters caused by rain and rapid snow melt.
At a Friday morning news briefing, Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the military is ready to deploy when needed, with more than 1,700 troops to be used in Quebec and Ontario and New Brunswick, one of the country’s maritime provinces.
It ‘just rips your heart out’
Ontario Premier Doug Ford was touring Ottawa on Friday, with Canadian media quoting him pointing to climate change as a reason why eastern Ontario is facing heavy flooding for the second time in three years.
It “just rips your heart out,” Ford said of residents’ plight, according to The Canadian Press.
Goodale also touched on climate change in his press briefing, saying, “These wild cycles from storms and floods to droughts and wildfires — that is a very serious national problem; it is a public safety problem, and we all have to work conscientiously together.
“I think we all have to learn the lessons of climate change. The impacts here are powerful and dangerous and damaging, and this is one of the most obvious manifestations of a changing climate. (We have) more unstable weather conditions where you can get precipitation that dumps about a year’s worth of moisture in a day or two, and then it all floods and causes enormous damage to private property as well as public infrastructure as well as the economy.”
On emergency footing
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has declared a state of emergency in response to flooding along the Ottawa River and has asked Ontario’s provincial government for help in Canada’s capital city. Volunteers are helping homeowners along the river and filling sandbags..
The city of Ottawa said the Ottawa River and tributaries are expected to continue rising over the next several days. Environment Canada, the country’s environmental agency, has issued a special weather statement for Ottawa predicting heavy rainfall, with 20 to 35 millimeters (up to nearly an inch) forecast by Saturday morning.
A hydroelectric dam at Bell Falls on the Rouge River in Quebec’s western Laurentians region is at risk of failure, according to the Quebec Ministry of Public Security. The risk area includes Rouge River Sector, downstream of Bell Falls Dam to the Ottawa River and Grenville-sur-la-Rouge. Those in the affected areas are being told to evacuate immediately, the ministry said.
“The water flows have reached all-time record levels,” Goodale said. “The engineers who designed the facility believe that it was designed to withstand this volume, but it’s still raining in the region so the problem could worsen.
“The evacuations have already now largely taken place. The problem is that if the dam were to give way, people in the area would have less than an hour to get out of the surging water. It is a rural, remote region, and it is not the easiest area to get into or out of; in fact, some of the people have been removed by helicopter, I understand.”
In Montreal, Quebec’s largest city and Canada’s second largest, officials are bolstering their response to the heavy rain.
“We are asking citizens in flood-risk areas to remain vigilant and to continue to work toward securing their homes,” Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said. “We would like to remind you that sandbags are available to build dikes. If you haven’t already, we encourage you to read about preventive measures on our website.”
Plante declared a state of emergency Friday.
Quebec has been hit hard in recent days.
More than 3,100 homes have been flooded, and more than 1,100 residents have been evacuated, according to the province’s emergency officials.
Quebec Premier François Legault told reporters he was pleased with preventive measures put in place by authorities, including the Canadian armed forces. He said those who face likely flooding have either already received sandbags to protect their homes or will receive them, according to CTV.
“At the end of the week, I was able to see the extraordinary work of those who are at work to ensure the safety of the citizens and limit the damage of the floods,” Legault said Thursday on his Facebook page.
In New Brunswick, floodwaters have dropped and stabilized, but officials said they are worried about more rain.
CNN’s Julia Jones contributed to this report.