Sussex, N.B., is dealing with what the mayor is calling a “devastating” flood linked to a river ice jam that kept emergency officials busy rescuing people from their homes for much of the day.
The water has flooded basements, submerged an RV dealership and forced the closure of several roads in the town.
For part of the day, access to the hospital was blocked to all vehicles except trucks and ambulances.
New Brunswick's Emergency Measures Organization (EMO) has been warning of ice jams and rising river levels for several days. The flooding comes as parts of the province are being hit by heavy rain.
In neighbouring Sussex Corner, Mayor Steven Gillies declared a state of emergency at 10 a.m. AT. He estimates 70 per cent of his southern New Brunswick village is now under water.
“In subdivisions in Sussex Corner, it's virtually impassable with vehicles," Gillies said. "We need boats to evacuate people and I decided right then that it was time to declare a state of emergency."
Kris Kyle said he got a call from his parents who live next to Trout Creek in Sussex Corner at about 5:30 a.m.
"They said, 'We got water coming in. Can you come down and help me carry some stuff out?' By that time, it was just steadily rising," said Kyle.
"It just started to go down about 45 minutes ago, but there's still water pouring in through the basement, so there's a lot of water coming in," he said. "This is the worst it's ever been."
Sussex assessing damage
Sussex Mayor Marc Thorne said the flood water in his town crested at about 2:30 p.m. AT, but has started to recede.
Officials have now turned their attention from rescuing people to surveying the damage and determining what repairs are required, he said.
“The situation in Sussex is very dire," said Thorne. "We have not seen the water like this since I can remember."
Parts of the downtown are flooded, but Thorne could not estimate how much water has hit the town because all of the normal measuring points are submerged.
“We just know it is devastating. We are dealing with it the best we can right now. We have every available firefighter and everyone who works for the town out now,” he said.
The flood situation became severe at about 5 a.m. on Wednesday and by 7:30 a.m., local officials began rescuing people, using trucks and boats to get to seniors and other residents who couldn't make it out of their homes, said Thorne.
Entire neighbourhoods were evacuated.
Students at Sussex Regional High School were sent home shortly after arriving at the school and the town opened a rest and warming centre at Kingswood University for residents with flooded homes.
At 11:30 a.m., at least 60 people had already left their homes and that number was growing. There are 2,500 people in Sussex and about 1,500 people in Sussex Corner.
Some people will not be able to return to their homes tonight, said Thorne.
No accidents or injuries have been reported as a result of the flooding, he said.
Flooding in Sussex and Sussex Corner is being caused by an ice jam on the Smith Creek River near the Oldfield Road, along with high water in the Kennebecasis River and Trout Creek.
Residents protect homes
Residents who planned to leave their homes in two Sussex neighbourhoods were registering at the town's fire department.
Paul Bedford, a Sussex resident, said in an interview from his home on McLean Street that he could see white rapids and debris moving down his street.
Bedford estimates there was more than one metre of water on his street and it is moving into his basement.
“My house is totally surrounded by water and my basement is totally flooded with about five feet of water,” he said.
So far, the Sussex resident said he wants to stay in his house to protect it from any large debris that could come close to his windows.
“We are going to stay put as long as we can and ensure everything is as safe as possible and yet we have to keep our safety in mind as well,” he said.
Communities across New Brunswick are dealing with ice jams and high water levels.
The EMO issued an advisory on Tuesday warning people who live near the province’s river systems to be prepared for flooding, which has led to schools being closed in the Sussex and Woodstock area.
The Department of Transportation is reporting roughly 30 road closures across the province.