Premier warns N.B. residents of flood levels never seen before
Residents near the water are encouraged to leave their homes immediately
- Five-day outlook suggests no relief for southern communities until next week
- Floodwaters in Saint John region could reach six metres, above the 1973 high
- Province launches disaster financial assistance programs, will apply for federal aid
- Northwestern communities finally see some relief
Premier Brian Gallant warns New Brunswickers to "plan for the worst" as floodwaters in the southern reaches of the St. John River are expected to surpass the levels of 1973, the province's worst flood in the past 82 years.
"We know many people in the affected areas have seen floods before, so many peoples' reactions may be to say, 'Oh, we've seen this before,'" Gallant said.
"We're not sure that's the case."
River levels south of Fredericton have exceeded, or will soon pass, 2008 levels and potentially those of 1973, the premier said Wednesday while updating media on the sixth day of severe flooding in the province.
Emergency officials are urging anyone in communities such as Grand Lake, Jemseg, Gagetown, Hampstead, Belleisle, Oak Point, Grand Bay-Westfield, Quispamsis and Saint John to be on high alert.
Flood forecasts suggest the river will continue to rise this week in those areas, and officials are urging residents to consider leaving before they need to be rescued. On Tuesday evening, the City of Saint John issued a voluntary evacuation notice affecting nearly 2,000 people.
"Now is the time to act," said the premier.
'What else can you do?'
Catherine Gaudet said she doesn't intend to leave her home in Douglas Harbour until there's water in the main part of the house. That seems like an inevitability, with more water spilling into the area this week. She figures she has 10 inches to spare before the water comes through the floorboards.
It's a disheartening reality for Gaudet, who waited out the 2008 flood at home with the help of generator. That flood caused $65,000 in damage, she said. It's not clear what the toll will be this time.
"What else can you do?" Gaudet said while turning to shed a tear.
"I think when you've worked so hard to have something, and I'm the sole owner, and you kind of stay with the ship as long as you can."
Southern water levels
There will be no relief in the next 48 hours for Fredericton and riverside communities south of the capital with "record-setting" levels to come, according to Jasmin Boisvert, a water science specialist with the province.
Levels in the Saint John region reached 5.11 metres on Wednesday and they're expected to hit 5.4 metres on Thursday and 5.7 metres Friday. The highest mark on record for the region is 5.31 metres in 1973.
The record upriver in Oak Point, also from 1973, is 5.74 metres. The river is expected to rise to 5.8 metres Thursday and six metres by Friday.
Maugerville is projected to match its all-time level of 7.11 metres before the weekend, and the Sheffield level has already passed the record mark of 6.45 metres and will rise to seven metres by Friday.
While Boisvert said the accuracy of the longer-term outlook can be affected by many factors, it suggests the record levels will remain stable into next week. Saint John and Oak Point could reach six and 6.2 metres, respectively, by Sunday.
Rest of province
The situation in the capital remains stable at about 1.7 metres above flood stage, but the water has yet to recede from city streets. Fredericton hovered around 8.2 metres Wednesday, and it's supposed to dip and hold at 8.1 metres until the weekend.
The situation will persist for several days, said Greg MacCallum, director of the provincial Emergency Measures Organization.
"Weather does remain a factor in this, as does an ongoing melt in the north," he said. "It's going to require some patience because this is going to take some time."
The province's five-day outlook suggests the level could reduce by almost a metre come Monday.
MacCallum said parts of northern New Brunswick have seen some relief. Water levels near Edmundston are dropping close to or below the flood stage threshold.
Red Cross said Wednesday afternoon it has assisted 260 people from 100 homes across the province. Evacuations, particularly in the Maugerville area, are continuing, officials said.
As of Wednesday, NB Power reported 176 customers had their services disconnected due to flooding.
The province has launched a disaster financial assistance program, Premier Gallant said Wednesday. The program will aid individuals, small businesses and municipalities that suffered property damage as a result of flooding.
Gallant said he discussed the disaster assistance program with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc prior to the press conference. Both men offered support from the federal government if needed, the premier said.
In Ottawa, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told reporters the Armed Forces will respond to requests for help.
"But more importantly, it's not that we wait for a request, we actually monitor the situation. So we … have things ready if we're ever needed," he said.
Gallant said the province would not immediately seek military assistance.
The premier said there is enough resources and emergency personnel to manage the situation, but that could change. It's an "ongoing evaluation," he said.
Environment Canada warns of more rain
Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement across the province. The weather agency said rain is forecast to spread across New Brunswick on Wednesday night ahead of an area of low pressure approaching from the Great Lakes.
The heaviest totals are expected from the northwestern corner of the province through central and southeastern New Brunswick.
The weather statement said between 10 and 20 millimetres were expected by morning, but there could be higher rain totals in various areas.
Temperatures are expected to head into the double digits on Wednesday, causing more snow to melt.
More than 100 provincially maintained roads, bridges and culverts have been affected by flooding, according to the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure. Officials said more road closures are expected as the flooding continues.
In addition, dozens of municipal streets throughout the province, particularly in Fredericton and Saint John, have been barricaded.
The flooding has cut off access to the Fredericton Food Bank and forced the closure of several businesses on Fredericton's north side.
Anyone who can't find a place to stay or who needs assistance can call the Canadian Red Cross or visit the reception centre set up at the Carleton Community Centre at 82 Market Place West.
With files from Information Morning Fredericton, Catherine Harrop and The Canadian Press