With heavy rains on horizon, parts of Quebec brace for floods
Environment Canada is maintaining its heavy rain warnings for many parts of Quebec today, keeping property owners near lakes and rivers on high alert for flooding.
Water levels, already quite high, are expected to rise sharply with warm temperatures, snowmelt runoff and the heavy rainfall forecast through Saturday.
Public safety officials say minor flooding has already occurred in the Montreal area, as well as the Outaouais, the Eastern Townships and central Quebec.
Earlier this week, the Chaudiere River burst its banks, flooding a large part of Beauceville, south of Quebec City. Officials there called it the worst flooding since 1971.
Thomas Blanchet, a spokesman for the province's public safety department, says they want residents to be ready for flooding that could come quickly this weekend, and are imploring them to follow the instructions of local officials.
Blanchet says while there are no official evacuation orders currently in the province, some municipalities have issued preventative orders.
Evacuation in Rigaud
Residents of Rigaud living near the waterfront who don't evacuate their homes should not expect rescue if the area should flood, the mayor said on Thursday.
Rigaud fire chief Daniel Boyer told media that with water levels expected to rise quickly, those who refuse to leave their homes can't expect rescue workers to put their lives at risk.
"Part of our responsibility is we will ensure the security of our citizens as long as we don't put the security of our firefighters at risk," he said. "It's part of my job to give service to the citizens but it's also part of my job to make sure my guys and girls don't get hurt doing it."
Some residents told CTV News that they will not heed the warning, saying they need to keep an eye on their property. They complained of a lack of sandbags provided by the town as they worked to secure their property against the water.
Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. said the community's library would be available as a shelter during the day but no shelter would be available at night. He urged residents whose homes are in the flooding zone to stay with friends or family if possible.
"Once we say to evacuate, if you don't listen, that's where my responsibility ends," he said.
A day before, city officials urged residents to leave their homes in the next 24 hours, as heavy rainfalls in the forecast and melting snow are expected to cause severe flooding in coming days.
Rigaud, located 67 km west of Montreal, was hit with devestating floods in 2017 and officials said they believe this year's floods could be worse.
"The big difference is the speed at which this water will arrive," said Gruenwald. "Unless your rowboat is tied to your front porch post, you're not going to have time to get out of there. Last time, if you remember, we had flooding and everybody put sandbags everywhere. Then all of a sudden it resided a little bit and everybody started taking the sandbags away. We're not going to have that option this time."
Resident William Bradley said he won't leave his home of 30 years, because he wants to protect it. Filling sandbags along his property, he said he's not surprised the town is leaving its residents out to dry.
"They're blaming the victims. They say we shouldn't be living here at all, but the town gave the permits to build," he said.
Pointe-Fortune, which is on the cusp of the Ontario-Quebec border, is also expected to get hit hard.
Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said she wanted residents of areas struck by the 2017 floods to know the city is ready should similar conditions occur this year.
"I want to reassure them that we have learned from the past flooding and we'll be doing everything that is necessary to protect lives, that's our main issue and as much as possible to protect areas and houses," she said.
The cities have a few recommendations for residents:
- Store objects in spaces above ground
- Prepare sandbags and have polythene to seal structural openings
- Remove and secure things like boats and trailers
- Prepare a 72-hour emergency kit
The mayor of Laval has already declared a state of emergency for areas of the city that are in floodzones. The declaration allows city officials to quickly respond to citizens' needs and spend the money it needs for supplies and equipment.
Almost exactly two years ago, Rigaud was devastated by flooding that displaced hundreds of residents.
“We pray that mother nature – as a matter of fact, I have sore knees because I pray every day – that this never happens again,” Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. said on the one year anniversary.
The city declared a state of emergency and the Canadian military was called in to help evacuate citizens.
The flooding also forced the province to adapt its compensation program.
“Next time I think we’ll be much more reactive and much faster in compensating people and treating demands,” former premier Philippe Couillard said.
- With files from The Canadian Press