New Brunswick

Floodwaters peak at 5.53 metres in Saint John as residents brace for strong winds, waves

Flood levels in the Saint John area peaked at 5.53 metres Friday and are expected to begin to recede on Sunday, but many property owners along the St. John River are still bracing for more damage with rain and high winds in the forecast overnight.

Rain also in overnight forecast, warns Emergency Measures Organization

Sarah Williams, facility manager at the Saint John Marina, estimated they have more than 700 sandbags around the building and added some gear on Friday to try to break the anticipated waves. (Connell Smith/CBC)

Flood levels in the Saint John area peaked at 5.53 metres Friday and are expected to begin to recede on Sunday, but many property owners along the St. John River are still bracing for more damage with rain and high winds in the forecast overnight.

Wind gusts could reach 60 kilometres an hour by mid-morning, according to a special weather statement.

The winds could cause increased wave action, which "can make for dangerous conditions, and cause a lot of movement with the debris and floating ice," warned the Saint John Emergency Measures Organization.

"So we're very concerned about the safety tomorrow, we'd ask people to be mindful of the heavy winds," said EMO official and deputy fire chief Joe Armstrong.

People with sandbag walls should ensure they are high enough to sustain the anticipated waves. 

The wind and waves are top of mind for staff at the Saint John Marina, which was seriously damaged by flooding last year.

They've been scrambling all week to protect the marina on the western edge of the city from the swelling river — sandbagging, berming and getting 12 sump pumps up and running with the help of volunteers.

"We were better prepared for it this year," said marina manager Sarah Williams.

"It's a round-the-clock job, so we've been working in shifts here and sleeping on floors here, but it's well worth it to save our little marina and restaurant because we still want to open in a couple of weeks."

On Friday, they put wave-breakers around the building, including a large boat trailer and other gear.

Some isolated Dominion Park residents had a unique taxi service on Friday. (Connell Smith/CBC)

In Dominion Park, which has been completely cut off by flooded roads, soldiers provided an unofficial and irregular shuttle on Friday in two light armoured vehicles.

Area resident Andrew Burnham said the military is a welcome addition.

"Sometimes they'll disappear for a bit, but then they'll come back," he said. "If you wait on the other side, eventually they'll come and get you."

Pokiok Road in Saint John's north end is one of numerous roads in the city closed because of flooding. (Connell Smith/CBC)

People on Darlings Island, also isolated, were being shuttled too but by boat.

Mike Anderson said he's getting used to springs like this but understands it's difficult for many of his neighbours.

"People that have to get to work at a certain time and worry about their kids getting on and off the boat, I can understand that, yeah. I'm retired, I got no deadlines so it's pretty good."

Rising waters have trapped residents on several streets off Saint John's Westfield Road, including Jennifer Bizeau of Fox Hill Road.

She has been walking along the edge of a railway track to get to her car parked on the other side and said she's had about enough.

Hundreds of sandbags have been piled up to protect Meenan's Cove in Quispamsis. (Connell Smith/CBC)

"I'm sick as a dog right now, trying to carry things back and forth through the train tracks, just trying to make things work," she said.

"It would be nice if we could build some roads up and stuff like that for future flooding. I mean, it's not easy going through what we have to do every year. If I would have known this, I would not have purchased my house up here, that's for sure."

A lone cyclist gave the water on Westfield Road his best shot Friday afternoon but didn't make it.

EMO said people should avoid entering the floodwaters because of unknown depths, debris and strong currents.

Floodwaters may  also contain biohazard contaminants from a variety of sources, including raw sewage being diverted into the river from other communities and travelling upstream, they said.

Several parks in the city have been closed because of the possibility of contaminated water and uncertainty about the integrity of some playground equipment.

In Hampton, the town's sewage lagoon is just four inches from breaching, said Mike Raeburn, director of public works and deputy fire chief.

"We asked the district to close the schools today to see if we can take some pressure off the lagoon system as it's maxed out, I guess you could call it, with all the groundwater and floodwaters and stuff," he said.

"If we give it a break today while we're at this peak, we'll assess it again on Sunday to see about schools again on Monday, to see if they should open or not."

The town's so-called green bridge over the Kennebecasis River is also being monitored closely and might remain open, said Raeburn. During last year's flooding, it was closed to traffic.

With files from Connell Smith

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