With rain on the horizon, Quebecers told to brace for severe flooding

Quebec's public security minister has a message for people living in areas at risk of flooding: "if you're asked to leave your home, if you're asked to take preventive measures, I'm asking you to co-operate."

Heavy rain, warm temperatures leads Laval to declare a state of emergency, Rigaud orders evacuations

Rigaud residents are filling sandbags in hopes they will protect their homes from flooding. Officials say this year's floods may be particularly bad. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Municipalities across southern Quebec are preparing for spring flooding that could be particularly bad, and warning residents to do the same. 

With heavy rain in the forecast, Laval has already declared a state of emergency, and Rigaud has told residents to leave their homes.

On Thursday evening, Montreal launched its emergency response plan in numerous West Island boroughs and municipalities, as well as in Rivière-des-Prairies—Pointe-aux-Trembles and Montreal North.

Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault said the government is monitoring the situation and is ready to intervene if need be.

She had a message for municipalities and citizens, in particular, who live in at-risk zones.

"Don't take any pointless risks, and I'm addressing those who live in flood zones in particular: co-operate with authorities. If you're asked to leave your home, if you're asked to take preventive measures, I'm asking you to co-operate."

Two years ago, Rigaud, about 30 kilometres west of Montreal, declared a state of emergency and put in place a mandatory evacuation order, threatening to fine residents who stayed in their homes.

But that didn't stop some people from staying put. And some say they still have no plans to go anywhere.

Gérald Gauthier, who lives in nearby Pointe-Fortune, said he is prepared, with four electric sump pumps and gas pumps, in case.

When asked whether he would leave, he was unequivocal. "No. Never."

Gérald Gauthier's home was spared during the flooding in 2017, and he's hoping the same thing will happened this year. (Kate McKenna/CBC)

Water to rise quickly, mayor says

Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. said the big difference between 2017 and this year is the speed at which the water is expected to rise.

Officials went door to door Thursday to warn residents about the situation and stress that they leave their homes. No one is being forced to leave, but those who choose to stay will have to fend for themselves, he said.

"Once we say you should evacuate, if they don't listen, that's where my responsibility ends."

​Rigaud Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. is urging residents to leave their homes. 1:03

He said there are still 140 unresolved files in relation to the floods two years ago.

"You can realize why we're reacting the way we're reacting, because we have to do whatever we need to do to have less files open. We need to get the people out of there," he said.

He said the municipality will provide the bags and the sand to make sandbags at the fire station, but they aren't filling the bags and they aren't making any deliveries.

Ken Flack, a municipal councillor in Pointe-Fortune, said he is disappointed by that decision.

"The people on the periphery, unfortunately, like myself and others, we're only within a foot of being flooded and have the capacity to save our homes, [but we] are being denied that now by not being supplied sandbags and sand to our homes."

The Rigaud library will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. for residents of Rigaud and neighbouring Pointe-Fortune as an emergency centre.

Representatives from the Red Cross will be on hand to help those with nowhere to go.

Preparations underway in Montreal, Laval

Laval declared a state of emergency Thursday afternoon in anticipation of the rising waters. The Mille Îles River has already started flooding the Laval-Ouest and Fabreville neighbourhoods.

Mayor Marc Demers said the move will allow the city to respond quickly to help citizens.

The city said more than 1,500 properties are at risk of flooding.

In Montreal, Mayor Valérie Plante said the city is also prepared.

"In the last few days, we were, of course, being very vigilant with the situation of potential flooding, and this morning we just decided to move into the intervention mode, which means that the teams are ready," Plante said.

Fire department spokesperson Richard Liebman is urging people who live near the river in Pierrefonds-Roxboro, L'Île-Bizard—Sainte-Geneviève and Ahuntsic-Cartierville to be prepared.

He said the fire department is building temporary dikes in areas likely to be affected by flooding, and residents should take measures to protect their property and be prepared to evacuate, if necessary.

Pierrefonds-Roxboro has contracted Flood Barrier America, a company that specializes in flood preparedness, to supply a different kind of flood barrier.

They use giant bags, filled with water from the river, to act as dams and block the floodwater.

Each barrier is 50 feet long and can inflate to be up to three feet high. They are dual chamber, which protects them from rolling or collapsing. (Elias Abboud/CBC)

Spokesperson Carl Michaelson said this method works better than sandbags for a few reasons.

"Unless you put a membrane around it, water can still get through and make its way around, and it can take a lot of time an effort to put it together," he explained.

With files from Kate McKenna, Elias Abboud and Radio-Canada


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