Flooding continues across western New Brunswick
Historical and near-historical high water levels
Flooding continued to be a major problem across parts of western New Brunswick on Saturday.
River Watch 2012 and the Department of Public Safety's New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization issued a water level warning Saturday.
It warned New Brunswickers near water flows to be vigilant. "Residents living and working along streams, tributaries and rivers are advised to remain on alert for the prospect of ice jams."
The emergency service also said that people in flood-prone areas should secure their properties.
The key areas of concern were Perth-Andover, where 500 low-lying residents were evacuated, as well as Tobique First Nation, Woodstock and Fredericton.
River Watch said that all other areas are now below flood stage and water levels will continue to decline over the next several days.
In Fredericton, the water level was at 6.8 metres on Saturday, and was expected to begin to decline by Sunday. Further down the river, levels were expected to fluctuate over the next few days without reaching flood levels.
Water levels in Clair are expected to remain high until Sunday.
Eight road closures related to flooding were also listed by New Brunswick Transportation and Infrastructure Saturday, with two in Bathurst, two in Fredericton and four in Edmundston.
Water levels continued to slowly recede on Saturday in the village of Perth-Andover, a small western New Brunswick community of 1,770 people that declared a state of emergency Friday around noon because of flooding.
But water levels remained above flood stage due to an ice jam. Much of the water around town was frozen on the surface Saturday and started to break up, making a cracking sound that could be heard throughout the village.
According to the Red Cross, the village has so far registered 212 evacuees, including 58 children, but others may have self-evacuated. Of those, 68 people are staying in motels and 144 with family and friends in the area.
Residents were making frequent comparisons to the flood of 1987, which knocked out a railroad bridge on the St. John River, and prompted the province to lift the road bridge and relocate many homes.
The current flood reached a level almost a metre higher than the 1987 flood.
Perth-Andover CAO Dan Dionne said that both flooding events were called "one in 100 years," even though they were only 25 years apart. But with the water receding, he expressed optimism.
Cooler temperatures have meant that less water is flowing into the river from streams and brooks, meaning the worst is likely over. But the cooler temperatures also mean that the ice jam is not melting or breaking up quickly.
Evacuations continued Saturday morning. Crews have been using boats and helicopters to get more than 500 people out of their homes and away from the flooding.
Ricky Nicholson, the fire chief in nearby Woodstock, sent his crews to Perth-Andover yesterday to help. He said he worries that Woodstock will also flood.
Water also remained above the flood stage in Woodstock and is expected to diminish gradually on Sunday.
"There were some taken by boat, a few taken by helicopter yesterday afternoon. It was quite an event," he said. "I'll talk with Chief Walker in Perth and see what else I can set up for resources and go from there."
Nicholson also said that there is widespread property damage in Perth-Andover but can't yet say how much.
Water levels went down about 60 centimetres overnight, but an ice jam remains in place, said the town's mayor, Rick Beaulieu. They were just below road level on Riverside Drive, which runs through the centre of town, at midday.
The St. John River continued its rapid flow and is filled with chunks of ice. The temperatures have gone down, meaning the ice won't melt as quickly. But there is a chance the water could come up again.
The local high school and elementary school have been flooded and won't open on Monday.
The local hospital remains closed and 21 patients were evacuated to the Upper River Valley Hospital in Waterville, Grand Falls General Hospital and Victoria Glen Manor until further notice.
Residents of the Tobique First Nation were also evacuated and transported to safe locations. Local authorities, New Brunswick EMO, Red Cross and other organizations were working to care for evacuated residents.
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.
On Thursday night, a Canadian Forces Cormorant helicopter rescued three people and two dogs from a Bathurst area home that was surrounded by flood waters.