Montreal

Montreal extends state of emergency as Mayor Valérie Plante looks to the future

"The situation is under control, but we hope to have all the means at our disposal," Plante said at a special council meeting, Sunday.

State of emergency will remain in effect until Thursday afternoon, city officials said

Volunteers gathered to fill sandbags at Pierrefonds Comprehensive High School Sunday afternoon. (Claire Loewen/CBC)

The island of Montreal has officially extended its state of emergency until Thursday afternoon in order to deal with flooding.

Though water levels around the island are lower than initially feared, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante had the extension approved Sunday afternoon at a special city council meeting.

"The situation is under control, but we hope to have all the means at our disposal," Plante said.

The state of emergency was declared Friday as public security officials warned that weekend precipitation could overwhelm the dikes around the city.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante had the extension approved Sunday afternoon at a special city council meeting. (CBC)

But so far this weekend, water levels have risen only a fraction of what was expected, Plante said, adding that dikes were strengthened to withstand a surge of between 30 and 60 millimetres.

"The dikes are holding up well," she said.

The state of emergency allows municipal officials to seize land and force evacuations.

City council met at the Pierrefonds Comprehensive High School, which is the hub for volunteer efforts in the borough of Pierrefonds-Roxboro.

Plante said she wanted local elected officials on the West Island — one of the hardest hit areas in Montreal — to stay close to their communities.

At the meeting, one concerned Pierrefonds resident raised the issue of building residences in flood zones.

Plante said that as president of Montreal's metropolitan community (CMM), she will ensure that the city's flood maps are revamped to become up-to-date and uniform.

"We cannot let people or municipalities build houses in places where it will not only have an impact on their lives, but on an entire territory," Plante said.

With state compensation for flood victims, building on flood zones puts pressure on public finances, she said.

Maria and Gabriel Lailo filling sandbags outside Pierrefonds Comprehensive High School, which is the hub for volunteer efforts in the borough of Pierrefonds-Roxboro. (Claire Loewen/CBC)

Plateau–Mont-Royal borough mayor Luc Ferrandez criticized the practice on Facebook over the weekend, even using profanity to emphasize his point.

"We know we shouldn't build on flood zones," he wrote in French. "We know everything we need to do and not do. We're inheriting all these problems — and bigger ones — for our children."

Plante said she had a discussion with Ferrandez and that "it was not the right time for that type of comment."

She said he has since apologized for his comments.

All eyes on Lake of Two Mountains

Several dozen homes have been evacuated since Friday in the Pierrefonds, Roxboro and Île-Bizard neighbourhoods of Montreal, though largely as a precaution.

"That's far from what we experienced," Plante said, referring to the spring floods two years ago that forced hundreds of Montrealers from their homes. "We're happy about that, but we're staying vigilant." 

Officials are closely monitoring water levels in Lake of Two Mountains, off the western shores of the island. That lake broke through a dike Saturday night in the off-island suburb of Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, forcing the emergency evacuation of 2,500 homes.

The Lake of Two Mountains broke through a dike Saturday night in the off-island suburb of Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, forcing the emergency evacuation of 2,500 homes. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

On Sunday morning, Quebec's Transport Ministry closed one lane in either direction on the l'Île-aux-Tourtes Bridge in order to strengthen its dikes. All lanes are expected to reopen by Monday morning. 

The bridge, which crosses Lake of Two Mountains, connects Montreal's West Island to Vaudreuil-Dorion along Highway 40. 

The Galipeault Bridge on Highway 20, just to the south of the l'Île-aux-Tourtes span, remained closed Sunday.  A plan is in place to offer free commuter rail service if the bridge remains closed on Monday.

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