Flooding in several areas of Eastern Canada had many communities bracing for the worst Thursday with Quebec officials warning of a dam failure, Montreal’s mayor signalling a “very concrete and direct” threat to some homes and Ottawa declaring a state of emergency.
Public security officials in Quebec called for the immediate evacuation of an area along the Rouge River downstream of Chute Bell because of the risk a Hydro-Quebec dam could collapse.
The largely rural section of river is in Quebec’s Lower Laurentians region, stretching about 18 kilometres south to the Ottawa River.
An alert was issued at mid-afternoon Thursday calling on people in the area to avoid river valleys and low-lying areas.
Hydro-Quebec added through social media that the dam had reached its maximum level and the utility recommended people leave 50 homes in the area.
The public utility said that after joining up with the Ottawa River, the flow would have minimal impact on locations downstream.
The dam failure alert was to be maintained until 11:45 p.m. Thursday, the Quebec public security website says.
In Montreal, officials raised the security level and increased the number of teams on the ground amid fears flooding could get worse in the coming days, but stressed the situation was under control.
Mayor Valerie Plante warned that anyone who was flooded in 2017 should prepare their homes for more flooding — and possible evacuation — if they haven’t done so.
“The threat is actually very concrete and direct and this is the message we want to send the entire population,” she said.
Environment Canada issued a rainfall warning for Montreal with 30 to 50 millimetres expected Friday and Saturday.
In Ottawa, Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency along the Ottawa River and other waterways.
Environment Canada issued a special weather statement forecasting up to 35 millimetres of rain in the capital region by Saturday.
Watson said about 400 soldiers with the Canadian Armed Forces were expected to assist with flood fighting efforts in the city.
Farther east, New Brunswick’s Department of Transportation reported 84 flooding-related road closures Thursday across the province.
Officials said the Trans-Canada Highway was fully closed from Oromocto to River Glade, and could remain closed for several days.
Water levels were predicted to reach 5.4 metres in Saint John on Thursday, rising to 5.6 metres on Friday.
Greg MacCallum, director of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, said flooding forecasts have dipped slightly and may not reach last year’s levels, but warned they are still well above the flood stage.
He said those in high-risk areas should pay close attention to the volatile water levels.
“This is a good day to reach out to your neighbours, to see if they require assistance,” MacCallum said.
“We want to encourage everyone to reach out, step up and help you where they can.”
The Canadian Press