Heavy rain likely to cause new or more flooding
Canadian Forces enlisted to help with crisis in Quebec
Persistent, steady rains soaking swaths of Central and Eastern Canada that have already endured record precipitation levels threatened to trigger widespread flooding Friday and put residents and governments on high alert.
Environment Canada said a massive system was slowly drenching much of Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes, triggering everything from contingency plans and flood warnings to states of emergency in dozens of municipalities.
In Montreal, Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux said Canadian Forces personnel have been enlisted to help cope with the crisis in the province.
“Considering what I’ve told you — that the situation will deteriorate in the coming days, that the water levels in many Quebec regions are comparable to the largest floods we’ve experienced here ... I think additional resources are appropriate,” Coiteux told a news conference.
“That’s why I spoke today to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and asked for reinforcements from the Canadian Forces.”
The province’s environment minister, David Heurtel, said the rain forecast is for historic levels.
“It goes beyond the worst scenarios that have occurred in the last 55 years,” he said.
It is not known how many soldiers will be involved or when they will arrive.
Senior climatologist David Phillips said the weather system, which stretches down as far as the southern United States, is stalled over the vast region due to high pressure systems elsewhere in the country.
The result, he said, is relentless rain falling on regions that have already endured double to triple the seasonal norms for rainfall over the past five weeks.
“The amount of moisture is significant,” he said of the situation. “And, of course, when that falls on what you’ve already had, it makes it more of an impactful storm than it would be.”
The problem is particularly acute in Quebec, where 132 communities had been affected by the floods as of Friday afternoon and some 700 people have been forced to abandon their homes.
For the residents of Île Mercier, a small island in the middle of the Rivière des Prairies off the northern end of Montreal, rising water levels meant they could no longer cross their only bridge by car.
“The water is up to your knees on the bridge,” said Nello Dicaprio, who has lived on the island for 11 years and decided to remain in the chalet he rents. “I’ve spoken to people who have crossed. They say the water is very cold and there is a current.”
Dicaprio said he would wait out the situation and hoped the water levels would recede — but he only had enough food for a few more days and there are no stores on the tiny island.
Jean-François Blais, who lives in central Quebec and had also been affected by the floods, called for more government help.
“It’s desolation, it’s really desolation,” Blais told a news conference in Yamachiche, Que., alongside various politicians.
“We need help now and we will need help when these waters have left. There will be an enormous cleanup and we need help. That’s obvious.”
Assurances of assistance came quickly from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a scheduled stop in Montreal.
Meanwhile, residents of the Maritimes were being warned to expect a long stretch of heavy rain starting Saturday.
In particular, southwestern New Brunswick was expected to see the worst of it, with up to 100 millimetres of rain in the forecast.
In Ontario, the eastern community of Clarence-Rockland already declared a state of emergency in anticipation of heavy rain expected to last through the weekend.
Phillips said that in places like Ottawa, rain is expected to lead to flooding in the coming days.
The same holds true for Toronto, which announced a contingency plan to close the heavily travelled Don Valley Parkway if water in the Don River rises too high.
Residents use a canoe to bring supplies through flooded streets of the Île-Mercier district of Île-Bizard, Que.