Quebec calls in the army as flooding begins

Environment Canada has issued rainfall warnings across southern Quebec as authorities from New Brunswick to Ontario brace for flooding. Rainfall could range from 20 to 80 millimetres of rain by Saturday afternoon.

Some low-lying residential areas already evacuated, others on high alert

Residents fill sandbags on April 19 at an Île Bizard site set up by the City of Montreal. (Matt D'Amours/CBC)

Ottawa has committed to help Quebec face impending floods after the province asked for the support of the Canadian Armed Forces.

"We are seeking the assistance of Canadian Armed Forces to support emergency response efforts in all affected regions," Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault said at 2 p.m. Friday.

Rainfall in some parts of southern Quebec could total 80 millimetres by Saturday, and experts say the ground is still too frozen to absorb it all — this is in addition to rising water levels from mild temperatures melting snow quickly. 

In some areas, flooding is expected to surpass levels seen in 2017.

Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale agreed to help Quebec, but the details of how Ottawa will do so are still being worked out with the province.

Guilbault said stores will be allowed to open on Sunday to provide services and supplies to people affected by the floods — Quebec law normally prohibits most businesses from opening on Easter Sunday. 

Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault said the province asked for help from the Canadian Armed Forces in the face of heavy rain and potential flooding across the province. (Marc-Antoine Lavoie/Radio-Canada)

Environment Canada meteorologist Mircea Oltean told CBC the Montreal-area should expect about 40 millimetres of rain by Saturday afternoon.

Spring rain warnings are issued when predicted amounts surpass the 25-millimetre mark in a 24-hour period.

The area along the St. Lawrence River will be impacted the most, he said.

Thomas Blanchet, a spokesman for the province's public safety department, said Quebec officials want residents to be ready for flooding that could come quickly, and to follow the instructions of local officials.

Urgence Québec is reminding residents to cut power if water is threatening personal property. If water has already begun seeping in, the agency recommends calling Hydro-Québec for help.

Montreal area on alert

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said she appreciates that the army will assist Quebec where necessary, but Montreal should be fine.

"It's under control," she said. "We are so much more well prepared than we were in 2017."

She said that a lot of work has been in done in anticipation of flooding and that each borough has a plan in place to handle the next 48 hours.

Montreal's West Island borough of Pierrefonds-Roxboro issued a warning Thursday night, reminding residents that the borough is responsible for protecting public infrastructure, but property owners must take care of their own homes and buildings.

"Considering the alert level and the intervention levels reached, the borough is asking all citizens residing in flood-risk areas to take action to protect their property and belongings," the borough wrote on its Facebook page.

Coun. Rosannie Filato, Montreal's executive committee member in charge of public security, said "concrete actions are being taken." Those actions include distributing sandbags and installing temporary dikes.

Water was creeping up on homes Friday morning in Rigaud, Que., west of Montreal. (Olivier Hardy/Radio-Canada)

The Montreal agglomeration has launched its emergency response plan in numerous West Island boroughs and municipalities, including:

  • Ahuntsic-Cartierville.
  • Pierrefonds-Roxboro.
  • Île-BizardSainte-Geneviève.
  • Rivière-des-PrairiesPointe-aux-Trembles.
  • Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue.
  • Senneville.
  • Pointe-Claire.
  • Montreal North.
Rigaud, Que., ordered residents to evacuate Wednesday and by Friday the city was still bracing for a weekend downpour. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Fight or flight: Quebecers battle flooding

Warnings similar to the Montreal region span from the Eastern Townships to the Outaouais.

The City of Gatineau is one of several municipalities making sandbags available at various pickup points.

In Rigaud and the municipality of Pointe-Fortune, flood levels are expected to surpass those of 2017. The situation is expected to worsen rapidly over the weekend. Residents had already been told to leave.

In many areas, residents and municipal workers have been preparing throughout the week for the expected floods, stacking sandbags, taping up plastic sheets and stocking up on supplies.

Resident Tommy Lechasseur cleans up near his car after the Chaudière River flooded, Wednesday in Beauceville, Que. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

In Laval, which is bordered by the Mille Îles River and the Rivière des Prairies, Mayor Marc Demers declared a state of emergency Thursday, due to impending floods.

"It's more of a preventative measure to make sure we have more flexibility in our operations," said city spokesperson Louis-Philippe Dorais.

Quebec City region under watch

In Quebec City, between 15 and 25 millimetres of rain has fallen since Thursday, with up to 80 millimetres expected through Saturday.

Officials are monitoring local waterways and expecting some overflow — a storm surge warning was issued for the region Friday.

Quebec City maintenance workers have been clearing street drains and citizens living near water are being told to keep an eye on the situation.

Northwest of Quebec City, in Saint-Raymond, the town has set up a shelter in a high school in case people need to evacuate their homes.

In Laval, riverside residents were trying to block the incoming water early Friday. (Vincent Resseguier/Radio-Canada)

"We're expecting a more critical period starting this evening," said Geneviève Faucher, Saint-Raymond spokesperson. "Two seniors residences located near the river have been evacuated. These people are now with their families."

The forecast is similar for the Beauce region, south of Quebec City, where there has already been substantial flooding.

By Friday morning, water levels have dropped there, but authorities are keeping a close eye on the situation as ice jams and rains could lead to more flooding.

With files from Radio-Canada and Canadian Press


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