Water levels are receding rapidly enough around Montreal that city officials have decided to lift the state of emergency, beginning Sunday at noon.
Fire department Chief Bruno Lachance said Saturday that, after analysis and consulting with Mayor Denis Coderre, it was decided not to renew the emergency status that was invoked last Sunday to deal with severe flooding.
Rain was forecast for the weekend, but Lachance said it was not expected to be enough to raise water levels significantly.
Large parts of Montreal's West Island remain underwater, though residents have begun to return to their homes as the heavy precipitation of the past two weeks has finally relented.
While some residents in hard-hit borough of Pierrefonds-Roxboro made their way back home on Saturday, they know there is a long road ahead.
"We lost a lot of things," said André Pelletier, who returned to his home on Saturday. "We didn't have the time to bring everything we had in the basement upstairs — the water rose too quickly."
The improving weather outlook has also prompted cautious optimism in other parts of the province hit hard by flooding.
On Montreal's North Shore, the Canadian Armed Forces erected a temporary bridge on Saturday to connect Laval to low-lying Île-Verte, which was deep in water during the flooding. The water washed out the previous bridge and emergency crews were only able to access the tiny island by boat until Saturday.
However, Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux cautioned it will be a slow process for residents to return home and take stock while flooding is still underway.
"We're still in this for a number of weeks because even if the water levels recede, they are still high and will remain high for a while," said Coiteux.
The province is also reviewing its compensation program for flood victims and changes may be forthcoming. The levels of compensation are expected to be higher, but there will still be a maximum.
Flood victims who need financial assistance or have questions about the forms but who can't attend information sessions can call the province at 1-888-643-2433.
In front of many houses on Rue des Maçons in Pierrefonds people have piled furniture, clothing, keepsakes—all of it garbage now. pic.twitter.com/R3nxzvVMJA— @jbernstien
Next steps in Montreal
Coderre announced Saturday that residents affected by flooding will have an extension to pay the second half of their property taxes. The new deadline is Dec. 1, 2017.
The new deadline also allows residents to have the value of their flood-damaged properties assessed, which in turn could lead to lower property taxes.
While floodwaters have receded, the city has also asked residents to be patient when it comes to going home.
As of Saturday, there will be garbage collection every day for a full week in Pierrefonds-Roxboro. The borough has also set up two sites with waste containers for residents affected by the flood.
Montreal residents may only return to their homes once city inspectors deem it is safe, and then they will receive individualized safety instructions to follow.
The city will also set up two command posts to help residents who are able to return to their homes. Flood victims are asked to contact 311 to get help from public security.
Firefighters will accompany residents to inspect their homes and identify any risks related to structural damage, electricity or natural gas.
The city is also advising residents to do the following upon returning home:
- Check that heating and electricity systems are functioning.
- Check the general state of the home.
- Ensure smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are working correctly.
- Check for mould.
- Document damage by taking photos and keeping a written log.
- Check food and water quality before consuming.
Many students will also be returning to school on Monday. Both the Lester B. Pearson School Board and the Commission Scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys have announced all of their schools and centres will be open for the start of the week.
Cautious optimism in the Mauricie
Water levels dropped by a dozen millimetres in central Quebec overnight, leaving public security officials hopeful the Mauricie region will also be able to weather weekend rain without more flooding.
Around 20 millimetres of rain is forecast for the Mauricie between Saturday afternoon and Monday. Officials there were initially expecting twice as much and have been preparing for the St. Lawrence River and Lac Saint-Pierre to overflow.
"We were seeing further decreases in the water levels in some sectors of the Mauricie this morning, so that's encouraging," said Sébastien Doire, head of public security for the region.
Flooding has already forced the evacuation of several hundred homes in the Mauricie area.
Municipalities in the region have already placed sandbags along their shorelines. Canadian Forces have been helping erect dikes in Batiscan, Que., since 7 a.m. today.
"I can tell you it's a lot better than what it was," said Batiscan Mayor Sonya Auclair, adding that police, volunteers and soldiers have been working hard to help affected residents.
"Lots of people were around to take care of it."
Around Quebec, there remain 175 municipalities affected by flooding, damaging a total of 4,701 homes. Some 3,894 people have been forced to leave their homes.
Premier Philippe Couillard told residents earlier this week that soldiers will stay on the ground in Quebec as the floodwaters recede in order to help with relief effort.