Warm weather has broken numerous ice jams in waterways throughout western and northern New Brunswick, threatening several communities with flooding, washing out several roads and even closing a hospital.
Residents in some communities reported the worst flooding in a quarter of a century.
The Village of Perth-Andover, a small western New Brunswick community of 1,770 people, declared a state of emergency Friday around noon because of flooding.
The village issued a mandatory evacuation order to roughly 500 people living in low-lying areas close to the St. John River.
Premier David Alward flew over the flood-affected areas on Friday with Public Safety Minister Robert Trevors.
Alward said he wanted to visit the community and speak with the residents and the emergency crews.
"We had a chance to be on the ground to be with the people in the community, it is very devastating. I know that when you talk to local people, everyone measures the seriousness of flooding to 1987 and 1993. And everyone is indicating that it is significantly worse than those two years," Alward said.
The provincial government's flood data website says the river was at 77.46 metres on Friday. By comparison, the river rose to 79.30 metres in 1987 and 78.7 metres in 1993.
The premier said government officials from various departments have been dispatched to help the community deal with the flood.
Alward said it is still too soon to measure the extent of the damage.
"This is certainly a very significant event for the community of Perth-Andover. Many businesses and many homes are impacted with water, public infrastructure — like schools and hospitals — my understanding is the village office is under water as well," he said.
"This is a very, very significant concern. My heart and my thoughts go out to people in the community. It was important for myself and the minister to be able to see what was going on."
The premier will visit the Woodstock area, which is in his own riding, Friday night to survey the flooded areas.
Provincial NDP Leader Dominic Cardy, who was in Toronto on Friday, expressed sadness over the flooding.
"My prayers are with the folks affected, my concern is with lives disrupted, businesses damaged, and of course the emergency workers and volunteers who are stepping up," Cardy said in a release.
Patients ordered out of hospital
The threat posed by the rising river also forced the local hospital to send its patients to other facilities in the region.
Horizon Health Network said in a statement that "to ensure the health and safety of patients, the Hotel-Dieu of St. Joseph Hospital in Perth-Andover will be temporarily closed due to the impact of flooding from the St. John River."
The hospital said that Ambulance New Brunswick was working with hospital staff to evacuate 21 patients to the Upper River Valley Hospital in Waterville, Grand Falls General Hospital and Victoria Glen Manor until further notice.
"The patients being transferred are in stable condition. Families of patients will be advised of their relocation and can call 375-5900 for further information," the release said.
"Individuals requiring emergency services are to call 911. All outpatient scheduled appointments at the Hotel-Dieu of St. Joseph Hospital have been cancelled until further notice and will be rescheduled."
The village's bridge has been closed and several sections of the community, on both sides of the St. John River, are underwater.
Residents were first alerted to the flood problems when an alarm sounded at about 11 a.m. An hour later, another alarm signalled a mandatory evacuation order for people living in low-lying areas.
The local school sent students home early.
The flooding forced the local fire department to remove their vehicles from the flood plain. Several businesses and homes were flooded out.
Despite the warnings, a helicopter had to be called in to rescue two people in Perth-Andover.
New Brunswick's Emergency Measures Organization is monitoring two major ice jams along the St. John River system, one in Drummond and the other in Woodstock.
Dan Bedell, an official with the Canadian Red Cross, said on Twitter on Friday night that as many as 60 residents are being asked to leave their homes on the Tobique First Nation near Grand Falls.
Residents in Perth-Andover were not the only ones who needed to be rescued by a helicopter.
A Canadian Forces Cormorant helicopter rescued three people and two dogs on Thursday night from a Bathurst area home that was surrounded by flood waters.
Fast-moving water and ice surrounded a home and proved too much for local emergency crews in Middle River on Thursday.
A Cormorant helicopter from CFB Greenwood had to be called in to move one family to safety at about 8:30 p.m.
Danica Doucet, 22, lives on the street and said she was at work when the flood hit.
She said the helicopter rescue was very dramatic.
"It was pretty intense. Like, you see this stuff on TV. You never think it would happen to your house or your neighbours. It was really ... it was awesome to see. It was crazy," she said.
River rising near Fredericton
Fredericton residents are being advised to be careful along the St. John River on the weekend.
The Emergency Measures Organization's River Watch has revised its flood forecast for the Fredericton area.
The organization had forecast the St. John River would reach 6.9 metres above sea level on Saturday, slightly above the city’s flood stage of 6.5 metres. But that has been downgraded to 6.2 metres for Saturday.
Weather forecasters expect levels will continue to fall on Sunday.
Fredericton’s Emergency Measures Organization is reminding residents to be extremely careful along the water's edge.
River currents are strong and flood waters carry debris that is not safe for contact with humans or family pets. Boaters are also asked to stay off the river.
Karl Wilmot, the co-ordinator for the River Watch program, said on Friday that water levels are lower than predicted in the Fredericton area.
"The ice jams that were in the St. John River and the Nashwaak River have released overnight," Wilmot said.
Several roads closed
The spring flooding is also causing several road closures in western New Brunswick.
Twelve roads were closed in the province early Friday evening. On the St. John River, the closures are in the areas of Woodstock, Hartland, Perth-Andover and Plaster Rock.
There were also closures in Durham Bridge, Sunny Corner and Bathurst.
Flooding in the northwest of the province destroyed a bridge near Kedgewick when a breaking ice jam caused a flash flood. Many maple sugar producers were cut off from their operations across river.
There was also flooding further downriver in Edmunston.
Route 105 is closed for a kilometre south of Hartland, between Route 575 and Rideout Road. The Newburg Road is also closed.
And further up the St. John River, Route 105 is also closed between Village of Perth's limits and Muniac Road.
Route 390 is flooded and closed between Wapske and Plaster Rock.
And in the Durham Bridge area on the Nashwaak River, McLean Flat Road remains closed from near the intersection with Route 628.