New Brunswick

Anticipated Westfield Road closure could isolate 800 homes Saturday, city warns

The Saint John Emergency Measures Organization says another six inches (15 cm) of floodwaters will force the full closure of Westfield Road and it's urging area residents to get out of their homes while they still can.

St. John River reached 5.5 metres Friday, surpassing 1973 levels, and shows no sign of stopping

Wayne Chamberlain was busy putting sandbags around his property in west Saint John on Friday afternoon. (CBC)

The Emergency Measures Organization in Saint John said Friday that another six inches of floodwaters will force the full closure of Westfield Road and it's urging area residents to get out of their homes while they still can.

If residents don't leave, EMO warns they do so at their own peril since "first responders may not be able to reach those who require emergency services."

The city said Friday night it anticipates having to close a large section of Westfield Road, from the Gault Road to Mellinger Crescent, sometime Saturday. That would isolate about 800 households.

Saint John police officers have been going door-to-door, encouraging the estimated 1,400 residents to leave voluntarily.

And New Brunswick Southern Railway once again offered a free one-way evacuation train shuttle Friday to residents in the recommended evacuation areas, including Morna, Morna Heights, Belmont, Ketepec, Acamac, and South Bay.

Another shuttle will run Saturday at 5 p.m.

On Friday, only one family took advantage of the train, which departed the WorksafeNB rehabilitation Centre at 5 p.m. and made stops at the Ketepec, Acamac Backland, Grenville Lane and Galbraith Property crossings.

Stephanie Fallon said she, her husband and their two young children had no other way to get out of the flood zone and they didn't want to end up stranded because she works in town and he attends college. They're going to stay with family.

Stephanie Fallon and her family escaped the floodwaters surrounding their Westfield Road area home Friday on an NB Southern Railway evacuation train. (J.D. Irving Ltd.)

The city hasn't had passenger rail service for years but the railway, part of Saint John-based J.D. Irving Ltd., has offered a train to assist with ongoing evacuation efforts.

The company also has a helicopter on standby for EMO to conduct aerial surveys of the flooding, said spokeswoman Mary Keith.

Tony Palise's house on Penny Roadway, just off of Westfield Road, is completely surrounded by water. His basement is flooded and his wife and dogs already gone, but he and his neighbour Wayne Chamberlain plan to stay put.

"They came around and told us they might be closing the road," said Palise. "Wayne and I, our plan was, if we left our vehicles up there, we'd walk down the railroad tracks to get to the cars."

Tony Palise said he feels 'just kinda numb,' looking around his flooded property in west Saint John.

Chamberlain's house is higher, but he has still moved his family out. If he and Palise feel they're in danger, they will leave, he said.

"We certainly don't want to put anybody's lives in danger or anything, but when you're here, there's certain things you can control and help."

Juliette Bosse and her partner left the area late Wednesday night in case their road was closed or they lost water or electricity, but she said she understands why some of her neighbours won't leave.

"It's a hard decision to make and it's surreal," said Bosse, who went back on Friday to check their property on Atkins Roadway after spending two nights in a hotel.

"These are our homes that we get up everyday and we work hard to protect. … It's an individual decision."

Infrastructure damage

A growing number of roads in low-lying areas are becoming water-covered and impassable. (Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon/CBC)

Water levels in the Saint John area have already hit record levels and they aren't forecast to let up in the near future.

The St. John River reached 5.5 metres Friday morning as forecast and the river is set to hit 5.9 metres by Monday morning, according to the province's Emergency Measures Organization.

Flood level for Saint John is 4.2 metres, and the 1973 flood, until now the worst on record for the city, was 5.31 metres.

Geoffrey Downey, a spokesperson with New Brunswick Emergency Measures, said residents shouldn't expect water levels to go down anytime soon.

"Saint John has already beat its flood record, Jemseg and Maugerville are certainly on the cusp, and other points like Sheffield and Grand Lake and Oak Point, they could do so as well," he said.

Some city-owned infrastructure in Saint John has already been impacted by the flood.

Saint John Mayor Don Darling said the city has had to shut off some pumps at water treatment plants and more infrastructure damage could be on the way.

"We could have a loss of power, we could have a loss of water and we could have a loss of sewer," said Darling in an interview with Information Morning Saint John.

"Get out, stay out and stay away," mayor says

The New Brunswick Southern Railway provided a train to help move people out of flooded areas, but many residents are reluctant to leave. (Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon/CBC)

On Thursday, the Saint John Emergency Measures Organization recommended that everyone living on the Westfield Road between Gault Road and the eastern end of Mellinger Crescent get out of the area.

But the fact that no one took advantage of the evacuation train shuttle on Thursday didn't sit well with mayor Darling, who urged people in affected areas to leave.

"Get out, stay out and stay away," he said. "I think it's getting very serious here and there's a lot more water to come and it's unpredictable."

Rising floodwaters in the Saint John region has led to people leaving their homes and caused numerous headaches for residents continuing to stay in the area. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

A voluntary evacuation order had been in place for several other Saint John neighbourhoods including:

  • Randolph
  • Ragged Point Road in the north end
  • Beach Road by Rockwood Park
  • Any isolated areas along the St. John River

As of Friday afternoon, 747 people from across the province were registered with the Red Cross as evacuees.

"We're encouraging people to [register] so we can have an accurate picture of an area and know that people are safe and OK," said the mayor.

This man, who lives on a stretch of Westfield Road that's cut off due to floodwaters on both sides, parked his truck and hoofed his way in along the railway tracks. (Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon/CBC)

Kevin Clifford, the head of Saint John EMO, said while evacuations are recommended, a mandatory evacuation is not likely.

"Ordering people to leave their home is a significant undertaking,"

"We really don't have the resources, we really don't want to do that."

Darling also urged people to avoid visiting flooded areas in and around the city.

"We don't need flood tourism, that's not an industry in Saint John," he said.

"Every time you drive down and take a picture of someone's house that they're trying to save from flood waters, can you imagine how that would feel if it were you?"

Weather and cancellations

City of Saint John employees, like Chris Bacon, subforeman of the traffic department, were in the Westfield Road area Thursday and Friday to notify residents about the free one-way evacuation rail shuttle service.

Above-normal temperatures and rain are in the forecast for Saint John, which may exacerbate flooding.

Environment Canada is forecasting as much as 15 mm of rain overnight Friday into Saturday.

On Friday low tide will occur at 9:37 a.m. and 9:56 p.m. with high tide arriving at 3:46 p.m. The Belleisle Bay, Evandale, Westfield and Summerville-Millidgeville ferries are not running. 

The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure was raising the landings at the Gondola Point ferry, so only one of the two ferries there has been operating most of Friday.

Road closures continue to pile up in the province because of flooding.

CBC New Brunswick's extensive list of road closures can be found here.

With files from Information Morning Saint John, CBC News Network and Matthew Bingley

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