Chatham residents told where to buy sandbags as Thames River continues to rise

The Thames and Sydenham Rivers are swollen from rainfall and snow melt and have already swamped cars in London and closed streets in Wallaceburg as the water works its way toward Lake St. Clair.

The water level in Thamesville is 18 metres above normal

A flood warning remains in effect for Chatham-Kent. (Courtesy Municipality of Chatham-Kent)

Conservation officials in Chatham-Kent are telling residents where they can buy sandbags and putting out marker flags in preparation for flooding that's expected to hit the area Friday, as the municipality's flood warning remains in effect. 

The Thames and Sydenham Rivers are swollen from rainfall and snow melt and have already swamped cars in London and closed streets in Wallaceburg as the water works its way toward Lake St. Clair.

A three-year-old boy is missing after being swept from his mother's arms as their van sank in the flooded Grand River near Orangeville.

"Right now the water levels in Chatham are almost five metres above normal," said Bonnie Carey, with the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority. "In Thamesville the water levels are 18 metres above normal, so that's still to come down through the Chatham area."

The municipality is warning residents that levels could be up to a metre higher by Thursday evening.

Carey said the LTVCA is anticipating flooding in Thamesville and downtown Chatham and is warning people who live or own businesses in those areas to prepare.

The conservation authority posted a recommendation to Facebook on Thursday for where residents can get sandbags after calls from people wondering how to protect their homes, according to Carey.

Staff from the LTVCA have also put out flags to monitor the water level as it rises.

"They are little green flags, and they are marking the elevations as the water level changes, just so we can gauge the change," Carey explained. "We would ask that they're left in place so we can better mark the tracking of the river levels."

The Thames River has already broken its banks in downtown Chatham. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Officials are warning the public to avoid waterways because of high water, slippery banks and rapid currents. A number of roadways have been closed and emergency officials are urging drivers to obey any signage warning of road closures.

Water levels are expected to rise in Chatham Thursday evening, peaking on Friday. (Jason Homewood/Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority)