New Brunswick

Saint John flood recovery will be 'really long': EMO

Floodwaters in the greater Saint John area are expected to peak on Tuesday, about 10 days after the flooding began, but the recovery could take "10 times that," says the head of the city's Emergency Measures Organization.

St. John River levels expected to peak at 5.8 metres on Tuesday

EMO says the sandbags people have used to protect their properties from the historic flooding may become less effective as they become saturated. More sandbags are available at three locations in the city. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Floodwaters in the greater Saint John area are expected to peak on Tuesday, about 10 days after the flooding began, and take several more days to recede, says the head of the city's Emergency Measures Organization.

The recovery could take "10 times that," said Kevin Clifford, who is also the city's fire chief. 

"There's been a lot of damage in our community, there's been a lot of damage to people's homes," he said on Sunday, expressing empathy for affected residents and gratitude to all the volunteers.

"We think recovery is going to be really long."

The St. John River has already reached unprecedented levels. It swelled to 5.7 metres on Sunday — well above the 4.2 metre flood stage — and is forecast to continue to rise to 5.8 metres.

With the tides factored in, it will be closer to six metres, said Clifford.

Crews plan to conduct aerial surveillance on Monday to better understand the "most vulnerable" areas and to develop access and recovery plans accordingly, he said.

"We're in the process now of understanding how bad it's going to get. Within a day or two, we're going to know."

If the situation escalates, Clifford is confident in the city's ability to respond with the support already provided by the provincial and federal governments, and industry.

But EMO's "fingers are on the dial" to call for help if required, he said.

The organization has a sufficient number of volunteers to meet its current needs, but is keeping a record of all offers and will issue a call for help when needed, said Saint John EMO manager Mike Carr.

"We anticipate a greater need for assistance during the recovery period," he said.

Don Darling, mayor of Saint John, says public safety is the number one priority as more rain in the forecast is set to worsen flooding in the southern half of New Brunswick 5:33

In the meantime, EMO is still urging residents in the flood zones to voluntarily evacuate.

Only 250 people have registered as evacuees with the Canadian Red Cross, as of Sunday afternoon.

About 1,900 people live in the affected areas.

"There are other people who have found a way to sustain their existence," said Clifford. "We'll support them as best we can."

All evacuees are encouraged to register with the Canadian Red Cross, even if they don't require assistance. The registration centre at the Carleton Community Centre at 82 Market Place West is open daily between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Crews have been conducting wellness checks in the isolated areas and as of Sunday afternoon no serious injuries were reported, he said.

Saint John police are also conducting patrols.

The water system is "solid so far" and the sewerage system hasn't been compromised "as of yet," said Clifford. Routine drinking water testing has been stepped up.

Several roads in the region have sustained significant damage, including Westfield Road, on the city's west side.

Westfield Road raised

Officials feared they would have to close the road, but managed to use gravel to build up a 150-metre section by the Mellinger Crescent intersection by three feet, allowing for continued single-lane residential and emergency traffic.

There is, however, a 15-tonne maximum, which is being enforced by Saint John police and flaggers.

With access now secured, NB Southern Railway has discontinued its free one-way emergency evacuation train shuttle, said Clifford.

Anyone who requires emergency evacuation from isolated areas in and around South Bay and Dominion Park is advised to call 911.

Sandbags residents have used to protect their properties may be less effective as they become saturated, said EMO.

Additional sandbags are available at three locations daily until 6 p.m.:

  • Works depot, 406 Bay St.
  • KBM, Westfield Road (for local areas residents only).
  • Works depot, 14 McIntosh St.

​Garbage and compost collection in flooded areas of the city's north end, scheduled for Monday, has been postponed until floodwaters have receded.

The affected areas include:

  • Beach Road, at the end of Sandy Point Road.
  • Kennebecasis Drive, at the ferry landing.
  • Kennebecasis Drive, by the lift station.
  • The end of Manner Sutton Road
  • Ragged Point Road.
  • Spar Cove Road at Pokiok Road.