Heavy rain for GTA, parts of Ontario amid flooding concerns

By News staff and The Canadian Press

Flooding concerns are top of mind for the GTA and beyond as a weather system brings substantial rain to parts of Ontario on Friday.

A state of emergency remains in effect for areas of cottage country, including Bracebridge and Hunstville, as well as in Ottawa.

In the GTA, Environment Canada said the rain will be heavy at times with the winds gusting to 70 km/h by this afternoon. And the region could break a rainfall record, according to CityNews weather specialist Frank Ferragine.

“The existing record is about 20.1 millimetres, and we’re forecasted to see more rain than that, upwards to about 25 millimetres,” Ferragine said.

Toronto and Region Conservation said the rainfall may result in high water levels and to exercise caution around bodies of water.

Meanwhile, in Bracebridge, a rainfall warning is in effect for the town, which could receive up to 40 millimetres of rain. Water in two nearby lakes is already beyond capacity and flooding of the Muskoka River could get worse.

There’s already been a voluntary evacuation for several areas and dozens of roads have been flooded or washed out.

Water levels are expected to surpass the flooding of 2013, which was the worst in a century.

“Sadly, we’re seeing a repeat of 2013, and maybe a little bit worse,” Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith said on Thursday.

Other areas of cottage country are also under a rainfall warning, including Muskoka, Parry Sounds, Huntsville, and Gravenhurst.

On Thursday, Ottawa officials declared a state of emergency due to high water levels in the Ottawa River. Mayor Jim Watson’s office says the water levels pose an “ongoing threat” to property, health and safety.

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement forecasting up to 35 millimetres of rain in the capital region by Saturday.

The mayor’s office said the combination of already high water levels and further rainfall give rise to a situation that “constitutes a danger of major proportions that could result in serious harm.”

Premier Doug Ford was in Ottawa on Friday, meeting with city officials and touring the areas impacted by flooding.

“We’ll make sure we’re on high alert,” Ford said of his government.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has previously stated that recurring springtime flooding is a consequence of climate change, which Ford said he agrees with.

“I am a strong believer in that and obviously you can see it … something is going on and we should be conscious of it,” Ford said.

Ford’s visit to the flood zone in Ottawa came a week after his government announced a funding cut for flood management. When asked Friday if he would reconsider the cut, he said he would let his minister handle that and then went on to defend his government’s focus on cutting the deficit.

In a statement on Friday, Federal Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale said his department, along with National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, have accepted a formal request for federal assistance.

“The Government Operations Centre has dedicated staff working to coordinate the federal response to the situation in Ontario. Officials are working closely with federal and Ontario partners on planning the details this assistance, including support from Canadian Armed Forces. Citizens can rest assured that help will be provided,” Goodale said.

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