Saint John EMO issues voluntary evacuation notice due to flooding

The Saint John Emergency Measures Organization has issued a voluntary evacuation notice for residents who live along the St. John River in the Dominion Park, Millidgeville and South Bay areas.

About 1,900 residents along parts of St. John River encouraged to leave immediately

People who live in the highlighted areas of this map are urged to stay with family or friends and take a week's worth of supplies with them. (Saint John EMO)

Increased flooding has prompted the Saint John Emergency Measures Organization to issue a voluntary evacuation notice for residents who live along the St. John River in the Dominion Park, Millidgeville and South Bay areas, effective immediately.

About 1,900 people are affected by the recommended evacuation, which was issued Tuesday around 7 p.m., days before the river is expected to surpass record levels.

"Emergency access and local traffic to these areas is now limited and is expected to be completely cut off due to increased flooding," the advisory states.

The specific areas include:

  • Randolph – those living past the Randolph Bridge.
  • The Westfield Road area (South Bay to Morna) – those living between the Gault Road and the eastern end of Mellinger Crescent.
  • Ragged Point Road – those living past the St-Francois-de-Sales Church.
  • Beach Road.
  • Any isolated areas along the St. John River within the city.

Flooding and road closures are expected to isolate homes in these areas for at least seven days, leaving emergency crews with a limited ability to respond to residents who choose to stay, the advisory states.

Affected residents are asked to find accommodations with family or friends and to take any pets with them.

Anyone who can't find a place to stay or who needs assistance can call the Canadian Red Cross at 1-800-863-6582, or visit the reception centre set up at the Carleton Community Centre at 82 Market Place West, which was expected to be open until 10 p.m.. It will re-open Wednesday at 8 a.m.

Evacuees should take a week's worth of clothing, medications, identification, cash, and keys with them. If they have pets, they should ensure they have their food and carriers as well as their list of vaccinations.

They are also encouraged to register with the Red Cross so officials know they are safe.

Could be worst flooding ever

Saint John EMO director Kevin Clifford provided media with an update on the flooding situation Tuesday afternoon on Bay Street, near the flooded and barricaded Westfield Road. (CBC)

Emergency crews are bracing for what could be the worst flooding the region has ever seen, said Saint John fire Chief Kevin Clifford, who is also the director of the city's Emergency Measures Organization (EMO).

Water levels stood at about 4.7 metres late Tuesday afternoon, but could rise to 6.6 metres by Sunday.

We know there are a number of residents that have seen flooding in the past [but] we fear that this could be much worse.- Kevin Clifford, Saint John EMO

The closest the region has come to that was 5.4 metres in 1973, and about 5.2 metres in 2008.

Flood stage is 4.2 metres.

"The message today is we know there are a number of residents that have seen flooding in the past [but] we fear that this could be much worse," said Clifford.

It could also be a prolonged event, with peak levels expected to be reached on Friday, followed by a recovery period that extends well into the weekend.

"So people have to understand their own resilience, their own capability to sustain where they are."

Morning levels could bring isolation

As many as 800 homes along Westfield Road, between the Gault Road and Mellinger Crescent, could be cut off as early as Wednesday by water-covered roads, said Clifford.

Millford areas residents beyond the viaduct on Green Head Road may also become isolated due to road closures. The Randolph Bridge is already covered in water during high tide.

Similarly, residents who live beyond Ragged Point Road, past the St-Francois-de-Sales Church, could wind up stranded as early as Wednesday, with the road now down to one lane.

The reception centre established Tuesday afternoon at the Carleton Community Centre will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily to assist displaced residents until further notice.

Outside of these hours, affected residents can call the Canadian Red Cross at 1-800-863-6582.

People who plan to stay at home in a flooded area should ensure they have enough water, food and supplies, including medications, to last at least 72 hours and should take appropriate steps to minimize damages, EMO advises.

Residents who don't live in the affected areas are urged to stay away from the flood zones and the emergency crews working there.

They should also heed road closure signs, said Clifford. Otherwise, they could be issued a ticket under the Motor Vehicle Act, but even worse, they could put themselves and emergency crews who have to rescue them at risk, he said.

Road closures currently include:

  • Lawrence Long Road
  • Dominion Park Road
  • Beach Road
  • Bay Street at Westfield Road is closed in both directions, but traffic leaving the city is being detoured up Gault Road.

Additional road closures may follow, the city said. Roads will be opened once the water recedes.

Darlings Island residents have had to find their own way across the flooded road that connects them to the mainland. (CBC)

The swelling Kennebecasis and Hammond Rivers are also problems for area residents and emergency crews alike.

The single road that links the small community of Darlings Island to the mainland remains blocked to traffic.

Although the provincial government provided a boat shuttle during the 2008 flood, it announced in 2015 it would no longer provide the service when the road becomes impassable, leaving people like Rick Scott with no choice but to make the crossing on foot.

"I've got an operation this afternoon" at the Saint John Regional Hospital, he said.

Scott and his wife both donned biker emergency gear to wade across, but it was no match for the water that had reached waist level on Tuesday, up from rubber boot-height Monday.

Mary Scott said she doesn't like the idea of young children crossing the water-covered Darlings Island Road because the water is cold and rising. (CBC)

The water is cold and some people told CBC News the road underneath is giving way, making the crossing increasingly dangerous.

"My biggest concern, not having the boats, is making these five- and six-year-old children come across this water," said Mary Scott.

Matthew Brown kept his two young children home.

"You can see the water's very dirty and polluted and who knows what's in there. You could see river rats swimming too. It's just not pleasant," he said.

Other neighbourhoods in the Kennebecasis Valley saw water levels rise on Tuesday.

Part of Gondola Point Road was blocked off as the water lapped close waterfront properties and Rothesay Park Road was also flooded.

Some of the cars parked on the mainland side of the impassable Darlings Island Road Tuesday. (CBC)

With files from Rachel Cave