Army building dikes to battle floodwaters in southern Quebec
Published Wednesday, April 24, 2019 1:21PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 24, 2019 9:46PM EDT
Soldiers are working in the southern Quebec town of Saint André d'Argenteuil in a bid to hold back rising floodwaters.
In 2017 the Ottawa River burst its banks and damaged 40 homes so badly they had to be demolished.
Now the North River, which runs through the middle of the town of 3,275 is rising and threatening many more homes and businesses.
The town's church, which also houses the library and a community centre, is also at risk.
"The water has actually come up just into the parking lot and we're trying to prevent it from coming into the basement of the church," said Canadian Armed Forces 2nd Lt. William Richardson.
Soldiers and construction crews spent Wednesday morning reinforcing a retaining wall near the church, and while water was still making its way through the situation was under control.
As of midday Wednesday 60 houses in the town were flooded and an additional 200 were cut off as floodwaters covered roads.
Mayor Marc-Olivier Labelle said he was very pleased with the work being done.
"They do what they know about keeping the water on the other side," said Labelle.
"I'm pretty happy to see the army but basically I'm happy to see that people are still working hard and take these situations seriously."
Labelle said that the town was more organized than the last time there was flooding in 2017, because prior to that the last flood had been 50 years ago.
"It's a small municipality that we have and we were badly impacted in 2017 and I have memories of that but everything is going pretty good," said Labelle.
Resident Pierre Dulude said he accepts the risks that come with living on the water.
"It's not easy," he said. "But this is part of the life I chose."
Scores of homes affected in Rigaud
Across the Ottawa River scores of homes are affected by the flooding.
More than 160 houses are either flooded or have water on their property.
Water levels are expected to rise over the next two days as the volume of water going through Carillon dam is quite high.
Officials announced Wednesday morning that Chemin du bas de la Riviere had to be closed because the water was so high that no wheeled vehicles could make it through. That measure cut off dozens of residents, but officials said the road was impassable.
In a statement, city officials said those living in the isolated area must decide whether to return to their homes with a nautical patrol, knowing they can't return, or go and retrieve their belongings and then leave their homes until the situation is resolved.
"Although for more than a week authorities strongly recommended evacuating at-risk areas, the city doesn't intent at this time to force citizens to evacuate their homes," they said. "It's their responsibility to choose to stay or leave. However, they must take into consideration that emergency services and the Canadian Armed Forces will no longer be able to ensure their safety and it will no longer be possible to enter and leave this area unless they have a watercraft."
Bridge closed in Laval
Officials in Laval had set up a temporary bridge to Ile Bigras, which lies in the Riviere des Prairies, on Wednesday, and told residents that a siren would blast one hour before the bridge closed if water levels continued to rise.
Residents were told it was best to get their vehicles off the small island and park elsewhere, such as near the Saint Dorothée train station.
The Deux Montagnes train is still running with a stop on Ile Bigras and some residents asked if they could get free rides to and from Saint Dorothée but their requests were refused.
Meanwhile city crews were setting up a 775-metre long set of temporary dikes consisting of sandbags and water-filled containers along the western edge of Laval near Riviera St. and 20th St.
About 50 streets in Laval are flooded and roughly 200 properties are flooded to some extent. Eighteen houses have been evacuated because of the floods.
Prime Minister in Gatineau
With parts of Gatineau still under water, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited a shelter in the city across the river from Ottawa on Wednesday afternoon.
The flooding in Gatineau has been as bad this year as it was in 2017, and water levels are expected to remain high for many days to come.
Water planning officials said that snow coverage was still twice as high as it normally is at this time of year, leading them to expect more flooding for several weeks.