New Brunswick

Railway, boats lend stranded villagers in Chipman a hand

The Queens County village of Chipman has been cut off from the rest of the province because of the flood — and local officials are worried about the impact it will have on the area.

Community hasn't seen water levels like this in 50 years

A vehicle is almost completely submerged in floodwaters in Chipman on Friday. (CBC)

The Queens County village of Chipman has been cut off from the rest of the province because of the flood — and local officials are worried about the impact it will have on the area.

On Saturday, an increase in water spilling onto the road forced the province to close Route 10 in Chipman, about 90 kilometres east of Fredericton on the Salmon River.

"This local bridge that shut off on the weekend does make a substantial difference," said Chipman Mayor Carson Atkinson. 

Although a resource road is available for emergency vehicles and larger vehicles, such as half-ton trucks, residents who use smaller vehicles can't get in or out.

The Canadian National Railway has been helping people get in and out of the community. Some residents have even been providing boat services.

"We don't want this to linger [or] to take a lot of time to get things in operation." 

A section of Route 10 is also closed at Coal Creek just south of Chipman. North of the village at Briggs Corner, the highway toward Doaktown is also closed. 

"We were scheduled in June to [do] a mock disaster, but I think we've done that," Carson said.

"I don't think … we'll be doing another disaster, I think this will satisfy."

Grand Lake Timber sawmill, a major employer in the Chipman area, was not safe from flooding. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

The village of about 1,100 residents is at the head of Grand Lake, where the water level is hovering around 6.8 metres — 1.8 metres above flood stage.

Atkinson said the road closures became a problem last week as water levels continued to creep up, but now he's hopeful they will remain stable and start to decline over the next few days.

"It's hard to tell, it might be up a couple of inches but it hasn't risen substantially in the last 24 hours," he said. 

Atkinson said he's worried about the economic impact of the flood.

Road crews set up barricades on Route 10 at Coal Creek. (Catherine Harrop)

"There have been several small businesses that have been negatively impacted and they're under water," he said.

On any given day, he said, up to 250 people work at the Grand Lake Timber sawmill and about 200 trucks come and go from the sawmill.

"The impact is substantial, nothing is moving," he said.

Community rallies together

Efforts are underway to make sure there isn't any damage in and around the mill, so it can get back into operation as soon as possible.

Community members have rallied to make sure everyone has the essentials while the village is cut off.

Atkinson said the last time water levels were like this was in 1973, when they reached 6.45 metres.

"It was not quite as high as it is today, but it was substantially high," he said. "A lot of problems in 1973 but .. this is a one-in-50-years event."

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