EMO warns residents as St. John River levels head toward last year's highs
River expected to reach flood stage in communities along river starting Saturday
As many as 16 communities along the St. John River from Saint-Francois to Saint John are expected to hit or exceed flood stage over the long weekend.
New Brunswick's five-day flood forecast suggests the river will rise to flood stage or higher by Monday at certain points. Flood stage is where the first indications of impact, such as road closures, happen.
"The potential in the forecast exists to see something very similar in terms of  levels," said Greg MacCallum, director of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization.
Water levels are expected to reach flood levels Saturday in Jemseg, Edmundston and Saint-Hilaire, with more communities affected Sunday into Monday.
In Fredericton water levels are expected to rise to 8.1 metres by Monday. Last year's peak was at 8.3 metres.
Record flooding last spring was devastating for property owners from Fredericton to Saint John last year.
MacCallum said EMO is monitoring road conditions and the forecast carefully, and asks people to pay attention to updates over the course of the Easter weekend.
"We still have a couple days of preparedness time," he said. "We don't want people to waste that, and we don't intend to waste it ourselves."
New Brunswick EMO has already started positioning sandbags. Residents in flood-prone areas can contact their municipalities or local service districts to see where sandbags are being distributed.
EMO spokesperson Geoffrey Downey said temperatures have been warming up in southern parts of the province, while temperatures are still below freezing at night in the north.
But temperatures in the north are expected to reach double digits in the coming days, and up to 80 mm of rain is forecast.
"Right now everyone needs to be paying attention and getting ready," Downey said.
He is urging residents to monitor the five-day forecast to see where water levels are rising, and consider altering any Easter weekend plans.
Downey is also reminding residents to have a 72-hour preparedness kit ready.
"There's still time for people to make preparations and they shouldn't discount that," he said.
These should include two litres of water per person per day, non-perishable food, a battery-powered radio, flashlight, clothes, candles, matches, cash, backup medication, food for pets and a written list of emergency contacts.
Ice jams force water levels to rise
Jasmin Boisvert, a provincial water resources specialist, said New Brunswick River Watch is monitoring ice accumulation, but there hasn't been any significant jamming.
This means "there will be a high volume of water flowing through the Mactaquac Dam over the weekend and into the week," he said.
Downey said residents also need to be aware of ice jams along the St. John River, which can also cause flooding. He cautioned people to stay off the water and even avoid riverbanks.
Water levels in Perth-Andover, a village 75 kilometres north of Woodstock, were rising throughout the day because of an ice jam near Baird's Campground. River levels fell Tuesday night.
Environment Canada says river levels above and below the village fell between one and two metres overnight.
In 2012, Perth-Andover suffered catastrophic spring flood damage. At that time, the flood forced 500 people to leave their homes and the village was under a state of emergency.
With files from Shane Fowler