Que­bec is­land res­i­dents de­ter­mined to stay in their homes

The Prince George Citizen - - News - Mor­gan LOWRIE

MON­TREAL — Although the only bridge to Mon­treal is cut off by wa­ter and hip waders are the only way to nav­i­gate the streets of his town, Ile Mercier res­i­dent David Dostie has no in­ten­tion of leav­ing the home where’s he’s lived for al­most 60 years.

“I de­cided to work all my life for that house, I’m not go­ing to leave – never,” Dostie said Tues­day.

“If I leave the house, the gov­ern­ment’s not go­ing to pay (us). We have to keep the house, so we have to stay here.”

Dostie’s attitude is a com­mon one on Ile Mercier, a tight-knit is­land com­mu­nity of about 50 homes just off Mon­treal’s West Is­land.

Res­i­dents have banded together since pub­lic se­cu­rity of­fi­cials closed the only bridge link­ing the is­land to the city on Mon­day, af­ter warm tem­per­a­tures and melt­ing snow caused the Prairies River to swell and sub­merge the struc­ture in fast-rush­ing wa­ter.

Dostie re­laxed un­der a makeshift tent, eating lunch that had been car­ried across the bridge in the bucket of a heavy vehicle, the only kind able to pass.

While the wa­ter ran knee-deep down the street, he said his home was dry and he wouldn’t leave un­less the wa­ter breached the sand­bag wall pro­tect­ing it.

“We got boats, we got gas pumps, we’ve got gen­er­a­tors, so we’re OK,” he said.

Next to him, fel­low res­i­dent David Cau­chon ap­peared equally at ease. Cau­chon lost his home in the record-break­ing flood of 2017, but is con­fi­dent his new one can with­stand the ris­ing wa­ter.

“If I don’t have wa­ter in the house, I don’t have a prob­lem,” he said.

The foundation­s of many of the is­land’s homes were piled high with sand­bags, while hum­ming pumps shot grace­ful arcs of wa­ter into the flooded streets.

Much of the credit for that prepa­ra­tion goes to Olivier Ishii-Landry, a flood-pre­ven­tion spe­cial­ist who lives on the is­land and who in­stalled many of the pumps.

He was in con­stant mo­tion as he used a small power boat to carry gen­er­a­tors, check pumps, and ferry jour­nal­ists and res­i­dents to and from the is­land.

He said many res­i­dents have fully re­built their homes since 2017, and have in­stalled water­proof foundation­s and bet­ter ground­wa­ter man­age­ment sys­tems.

“We have the lo­gis­tics in place to deal with it much bet­ter,” he said. “Our is­land looked like a war zone a full week be­fore the main­land even got the news some­thing was about to hap­pen.”

Pier-Luc Cau­chon, a res­i­dent who has be­come the is­land’s un­of­fi­cial leader, spent the day or­ga­niz­ing docks and boat own­ers to ferry res­i­dents to and from the is­land next door.

He es­ti­mates that at least 26 of the is­land’s 50 or so house­holds are stay­ing put, and most oth­ers are go­ing back and forth.

In ad­di­tion to con­fer­ring with po­lice and of­fi­cials, he or­ga­nized a team of vol­un­teers to knock on the door of ev­ery res­i­dent ev­ery four hours to make sure they had enough food and wa­ter.

“We make lists of needs, we see if any­one wants to evac­u­ate, things like that, but so far ev­ery­one is con­fi­dent and ev­ery­one wants to stay,” he said.

Else­where in the prov­ince, the num­ber of homes that were flooded de­clined slightly on Tues­day, from 3,100 to 2,800 at 1 p.m.

Ur­gence Que­bec said more than 1,400 peo­ple had been forced from their homes across the prov­ince and some 2,100 prop­er­ties re­main iso­lated be­cause of washed out roads or land­slides.

Au­thor­i­ties said they ex­pected wa­ter lev­els to peak by Wed­nes­day.

But flooding risks re­main high across south­ern Que­bec, par­tic­u­larly the cor­ri­dor be­tween the Ou­taouais area west of Mon­treal and the Beauce re­gion south of Que­bec City.

Pub­lic Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Genevieve Guil­bault vis­ited Sainte-Marie, Que., in the Beauce area, and met with sev­eral may­ors of towns af­fected by the over­flow­ing Chaudiere River.

Sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple left their homes in that town and nearly 1,000 res­i­dences and com­mer­cial build­ings were flooded. Last week, Beaucevill­e, just down river, saw its down­town core over­run with wa­ter, hit­ting 230 homes and busi­nesses.

About 350 kilo­me­tres west of Sainte-Marie, right by the bound­ary with On­tario, Ri­gaud fire chief Daniel Boyer said the rain over the next few days could be telling. “I think it’ll get a lit­tle worse,” Boyer said. He said ex­perts, how­ever, no longer be­lieve the wa­ter will rise to his­toric 2017 lev­els.

“Is it go­ing to get worse? I hope not, but our job is to get ready for the worst.”


Que­bec Provincial po­lice and lo­cal fire­men check up on a res­i­dent in a flooded neighbourh­ood in Ri­gaud, Que. on Tues­day.

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