More heavy rain in the forecast: What it means for Quebecers
Published Wednesday, May 10, 2017 8:41AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 7, 2017 10:45AM EDT
Heavy rains in the forecast for the weekend are expected to slow the efforts to dry out the province, Quebec officials say.
Some 20 to 40 millimetres of rain are expected to fall Saturday through Monday, said Environment Minister David Heurtel in a Wednesday morning news conference.
The good news for those in western Quebec is that the precipitation won’t mean rising waters.
“Our models show the impact (of the rain) will slow the rate of reduction,” explained Heurtel. “It won’t bring it up, but will slow the progress.”
West of Montreal, Montreal and the Lanaudiere regions are expecting about 20 millimetres of water, said Heurtel.
“A precise prognostic of the impact is difficult at this time,” said Heurtel, again underlining that waters will not rise.
"The rainfall that we are anticipating for the weekend will not have an effect in rising Lac St. Louis," he said. "It will be stable or slow down the reduction."
Montreal fire department Chief Bruno Lachance said emergency crews are focused on two jobs: keeping people safe and reinforcing dikes.
“The first action focus is to make sure everybody is safe, the roads are safe, the buildings are safe,” he said at a news conference in Pierrefonds. “We’re making patrols on the streets and rivers to make sure everyone is safe.”
He said so far, 13 dikes have been reinforced and inspected by engineers, and that six more will be completed by the end of the day. They are being reinforced with sandbags and blocks to be “bigger and stronger,” he said.
Lachance said that in Montreal, 397 homes have been flooded and 243 people have had to evacuate their homes.
“Drinking water is totally normal, so (there is) no problem with that,” he added.
As for Lake of Two Mountains, Heurtel said the water levels have already been reduced by 10 centimetres, and again, will see those levels either stabilize or slowly decrease through the weekend rain.
The situation is different in the Mauricie region, however, where the combination of the rain, rising tides and the spring snow runoff will make an already difficult situation worse. Water levels are expected to rise there.
On Wednesday evening 173 municipalities across the province were reporting flooding. That translated to 4,141 homes flooded, 3,033 people who have had to leave their homes, and 554 roads closed.
Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux also reported 125 landslides in the province.
Coiteux said he and other officials met with people who have been ousted from their homes to provide help and resources.
“I understand the distress and frustration,” he said. “We understand it’s very difficult. We’re helping citizens all the ways we can.”
As was his message Tuesday, Coiteux expressed the need for patience.
“It will take a few weeks, that’s the reality,” reminding people that mental health services are in place for those facing burnout.
Armed Forces Brigadier-General Hercule Gosselin said 500 army reservists from Ontario arrived in Quebec Wednesday to relieve some of the troops from Valcartier who have been working 24/7 to provide assistance and relief. He said there will be no change in the amount of support provided.
By day's end about 2,200 Canadian Forces troops were helping in the flood effort.
After the flood
Coiteux said officials are already in planning mode for what happens after the floodwaters recede.
“It’s going to be a major cleanup and it will mobilize lots of people and resources,” he said. “We’re already coordinating the efforts of the workers of the cities, the volunteers that want to help, businesses that want to contribute.”
Coiteux said the cleanup coordination will be managed at the municipal or borough levels, but that the Quebec government will be there for added support.
People who have lost property and possessions to the flooding can get financial help, said Coiteux, reiterating that programs are in place to assist flood victims and informational sessions are being held throughout flood zones. Government officials are encouraging flood victims to begin the process of making claims, either online, by phone (1-888-643-AIDE) or at points of contact in affected municipalities.
Finance Minister Carlos Leitao said on Wednesday that the flooding will only have a minimal impact on the Quebec economy this year.
Pierrefonds residents complain about lack of prevention
Some Pierrefonds residents are complaining that the city was too slow to set in and set of adequate prevention measures.
“They’re handling it now. It’s too late. I asked for sandbags when the water was (further), and they told me ‘Call us when the water comes right close to your home.’ I said, ‘Don’t you think that’s a little too late?’ They said that’s their protocol,” said one frustrated resident.
Lachance said he felt confident that emergency workers made a big impact within the first 24 hours.
“We really acted very fast on the first days. I understand the frustration because people are hurt, there’s a big impact on their life,” he said.
How best to help - and what not to do
The Canadian Red Cross Relief fund will provide assistance to those in need. The federal government is donating $1 million to flood relief and the provincial government another $500,000. Citizens are being urged to donate as well. Lachance added that anyone who wants to volunteer will be best to be patient and wait until the emergency situation ends and the relief efforts begin.
“A lot want to help, but they cannot really help in emergency situations,” he explained. “We don’t want to mix citizens with our personnel that have expertise in a crisis situation.”
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre also reiterated that would-be volunteers go through the proper channels and don’t take measures into their own hands.
“We we’re asking people not to take any personal initiatives. When a state of emergency has been declared, (the city) is there to secure things, to help people and to protect them from themselves," he said. “It’s not a matter of having extra volunteers. If you want to volunteer, call the Red Cross which is in direct contact with the emergency command centre. No personal initiatives, no improvisation. There’s work being done.”