Quebec remains on flood alert with rain in forecast

Water levels are stabilizing in rivers across Quebec, but officials are warning residents in flood zones not to let their guards down.

For Montreal-area communities, next 36 hours are critical, Rigaud fire chief says

After installing a pump in an Île Mercier resident's home Monday, plumber Olivier Ishii-Landry checked his phone before heading to his next call. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Water levels are stabilizing in rivers across Quebec, but officials are warning residents in flood zones not to let their guards down.

Rain in the forecast, which Environment Canada predicts will last through most of the day Wednesday, means communities around the province at risk of flooding or already under water will be watching the skies closely.

Daniel Boyer, the fire chief in Rigaud, a town just west of Montreal on the Ottawa River, said the next 12 to 36 hours will be critical.

"I think it's going to get a little worse," he said. "But it won't get as high, probably, as 2017. That's what the experts are saying."

Firefighters used a payloader to deliver a pump on Île Mercier on Tuesday. The Rivière des Prairies rose higher than the bridge to the island on Monday, making it Impassable on foot or by civilian vehicle. (Jay Turnbull/CBC)

Sunny weather over the past few days has melted more snow in river basins around the province, adding to the volume of water. 

"Keep your strength, friends, because this is going to keep going," said Hans Gruenwald Jr., Rigaud's mayor. "It's going to be drawn out for several weeks before this is all over."

Gruenwald said nearly 200 homes in Rigaud are flooded, 56 homes have no road access, and 193 families have sought help from authorities. Fire, police and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) officials were visiting flood-prone areas in the community on Tuesday to update that count.

The CAF was using light-armoured vehicles to access regions that fire and police vehicles can't reach, Boyer said.

"Some of the people we'll see today are under a lot of stress," Boyer said. "Some of them have been cut off from the world by floodwaters for four or five days, maybe with no water and non-functioning septic systems."

As of Tuesday evening, just under 1,400 people across the province were unable to return to their homes, according to Urgences Québec. That's down from around 1,700 on Monday. 

The agency said 1,941 homes in Quebec were flooded, down from around 3,152 reported earlier in the day. An additional 1,965 homes are isolated by flooding — meaning they are inaccessible by road.

As of Tuesday evening, there were no evacuation orders in place in Montreal or Laval.

Floodwaters surround homes in Rigaud, west of Montreal. (Simon-Marc Charron/Radio-Canada)

For days, volunteers have been working alongside public security, municipal workers and members the Armed Forces to protect houses at risk of flooding.

There are 960 troops across the province helping out, including about 100 in the Beauce region, which has been hardest hit.

"The priority now is public safety," said Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault, who toured the flood-damaged town of Sainte-Marie, about 60 kilometres southeast of Quebec City, Tuesday.

"We are in an emergency situation. But we will also have to have constructive conversations on how we can avoid future flooding, as much as possible."

Montreal is ready to help, mayor says

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, too, has been touring neighbourhoods that are flooding or at risk of flooding for four days now.

She said residents are worried about their belongings, but have said good things about the co-ordination between the city's various emergency organizations.

Those efforts, she continued, are going well, and the city is ready to help those who may need it.

Over the long weekend, there were about 50 troops in the borough of L'Île-Bizard, and another 30 on Île Bigras in Laval, helping with preventive measures.

Water laps at a fortification of sandbags around a house on Île Mercier. (Jay Turnbull/CBC)

Some roads are closed in the West Island and the bridge connecting Île Bizard to Île Mercier has been closed since Monday night. The water was knee high at certain points along the bridge Tuesday morning.

Residents of Île Mercier can remain on the island, or they can stay at a shelter on Montée de l'Église in L'Île-Bizard, city officials said.

Fire Chief Bruno Lachance said the island won't be placed under a mandatory evacuation order. From what he's seen, the situation there is under control and emergency services are ready to respond if needed. 

The SPVM will still be serving the island using police boats, but there will be fewer resources available to those who stay.


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