New Brunswick

Grand Bay-Westfield residents scramble to deal with rising floodwaters

Grand Bay-Westfield residents in low-lying areas were scrambling to deal with rising floodwaters on Wednesday.

'Urgent' and 'growing' demand for filled sandbags for flooded homes

Lew Donovan hestitated momentarily before crossing the flooded Westfield Road on Wednesday morning. (CBC)

Grand Bay-Westfield residents in low-lying areas were scrambling to deal with rising floodwaters on Wednesday.

The St. John River rose to a little over 5.1 metres on Wednesday and is expected to reach six metres "and possibly higher" over the weekend, according to an update issued by the town's Emergency Measures Organization late in the afternoon.

Flood level in the area is 4.2 metres.

The Westfield ferry, between Grand Bay-Westfield and Hardings Point on the Kingston Peninsula, is not operating until further notice.

Westfield Road, from Gault Road to the eastern end of Mellinger Crescent, is closed, although motorists like Lew Donovan risked crossing it while they could.

"The other end down by Gault Road is a lot worse, it's a lot deeper," Donovan told CBC News after he drove past the barricade, heading toward town in his pickup truck, with the water up to the grill.

With high tide in mid-afternoon, "this one is going to be a lot deeper later today, I'm assuming," he said.

Donovan was picking up some sandbags for his boss, whose home is at risk of flooding.

"We had to get it while we could," he said.

There is an "urgent" and "growing" demand for filled sandbags for flooded homes, according to the Grand Bay-Westfield Community Facebook group.

Lew Donovan said the flooding will get worse before it gets better. (CBC)

Volunteers were being asked to meet at the Keel sandpit behind Westfield School. At least a dozen people were on site around 1 p.m.

Stephanie Lawrence was among them.

"We always know what a great community it is. So, yeah, we knew once the call went out it wouldn't be long for people to come out and help."

Dave Clarke and his sister Kimberly Peer have been doing their best to help their elderly parents.

"It's at the door and the sump pumps are keeping up to it," said Clarke.

"And we've got about 150 sandbags keeping the water at bay," said Peer. "And we're going to add some more."

Residents can pick up empty sandbags on a first-come, first-served basis at the town hall and fill them at two sand-pile sites: the ball field on Inglewood Drive and the Department of Transportation shed in Woodmans Point, EMO said.

Shovels are provided.

Cooke Aquaculture announced Wednesday night it's sending a truck loaded with 10,000 sandbags to the town to support flood relief efforts.

The Blacks Harbour-based company also has boats and equipment on standby to assist if needed, spokesman Joel Richardson said in a news release.

New Brunswickers answered the call for volunteers to help fill sandbags in Grand Bay-Westfield. But now once no longer needed, what's to become of all those bags? (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

"All residents in low-lying areas need to remain vigilant, even those who have never flooded before," the EMO advised.

Residents who are voluntarily evacuating their homes and staying with family or friends are asked to register with the Canadian Red Cross at 1-800-863-6582.

An emergency shelter has been set up at the University of New Brunswick Saint John campus for anyone who doesn't have a place to stay, officials said.

Be warned that emergency services may not be able to reach you in the event of a flood or non-flood related emergency.- Grand Bay-Westfield EMO

Anyone who decides to stay at home in a flooded area is asked to ensure they have enough food, water, medications and supplies for at least 72 hours.

"Also be warned that emergency services may not be able to reach you in the event of a flood or non-flood related emergency," the EMO said.

Firefighters have been delivering emergency warning messages to locations believed to be at "higher or certain risk" of flooding.

On Atkins Roadway, near Westfield Road in the Morna area, a homeowner tried to take precautions against the rising St. John River. Upriver in Grand Bay-Westfield, residents were offered empty sandbags they could fill at a couple of sand sites in town. (Joe Tunney/CBC News)

Volunteer firefighters, the fire chief and municipal operations staff have been conducting "ongoing checks" of the affected areas to ensure the safety of residents, said EMO.

"All available resources are being used."

Riverside Park and Brittain Road at Nerepis Road are closed, and closures of other roads, including Shannon, Brandy Point and Hammond and part of Nerepis Road were imminent, the town said in its late afternoon flood update.

Roads will reopen once the water recedes and inspections deem them safe to cross.

With files from Matthew Bingley