New Brunswick

Don't wait this out, Saint John EMO urges residents in N.B. flood zones

Saint John EMO is continuing to urge residents in some low-lying areas of Southern New Brunswick to evacuate their homes as the St. John River continues to rise, but few seem to be heeding message.

Train brought in to carry people away from threatened areas gets zero passengers

David Dobbelsteyn, Saint John EMO's director of emergency social services, said some residents on Westfield Road are already isolated by floodwaters. (Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon/CBC)

Saint John EMO is continuing to urge residents in some low-lying areas along the St. John River to get out of their homes before the flooding worsens.

But few people seemed to be heeding the warning Thursday, as the water reached record levels.

Only 116 people of the estimated 1,900 residents from the recommended evacuation areas have registered with the Canadian Red Cross as evacuees, officials said.

And no one took advantage of the free one-way evacuation rail shuttle service NB Southern Railway offered at 4 p.m. to residents in the Westfield Road area  — not even people who can no longer drive themselves out because their road is water-covered.

"We're encouraging residents to [self-evacuate] and not to continue to wait this out," said David Dobbelsteyn, director of emergency social services for the Saint John Emergency Measures Organization.

Water rising

Rising floodwaters have triggered a voluntary evacuation order for nearly 2,000 people in the Saint John area. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

The St. John River reached 5.4 metres Thursday, a level not seen since the 1973 floods.

Up to 15 mm of rain is expected to fall overnight, according to Environment Canada, and by Friday the river could swell to 5.5 metres.

"It is possible that those living in affected areas along the St. John River and in areas identified in the evacuation map may lose power, water and sewer services," EMO had warned in a statement.

"More residents will also be cut off and isolated as roads become impassable. First responders may not be able to reach those who require emergency services."

NB Southern Railway offered to help anyone who wanted to leave Westfield Road and surrounding areas, including Morna, Morna Heights, Belmont, Ketepec, Acamac and South Bay.

The idea was to pick up passengers at the Ketepec Road, Acamac Backland Road, Grenville Lane and Galbraith Property crossings, and drop them off at the railyard on Dever Road.

Charter buses would then take them to the Red Cross reception centre at the Carleton Community Centre at 82 Market Place West on the old west side.

Dobbelsteyn said the late notice about the rail shuttle service, issued around 1:30 p.m., likely played a role in the lack of passengers.

"We understand that a lot of residents may not be home from work yet," he said. "We also understand some residents may not have heard the message. So part of the other reason we're here today is just to show that we're coming through."

Additional runs will be scheduled, as needed, EMO said.

Voluntary evacuation

Water has already cause damage to some infrastructure in Grand Bay-Westfield. (CBC)

In addition to the Westfield Road, a voluntary evacuation order remains in place for several 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

It's possible more than the 116 registered evacuees have left their homes and simply haven't contacted the Red Cross, but all displaced residents are being encouraged to register, even if they don't require assistance, so that officials know they are safe.

Kevin Clifford, head of the Saint John Emergency Measures Organization, said crews will be speaking with many of the residents who remain.

"We are going to follow up on a door-to-door campaign, particularly in some of those isolated areas," said Clifford.

So far he hasn't heard of any reports of nighttime evacuations.

Clifford told Information Morning Saint John that Saint John EMO has been in touch with military officials in case they're needed.

"We've opened that line and they've been very receptive," said Clifford.

"We've had that discussion … they have equipment that … will be very helpful."

Bedroom communities affected

Sandbags are becoming a common sight in the Saint John area as water levels rise. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Communities just outside Saint John are preparing for worsening floodwaters along the Kennebecasis River.

In Rothesay, crews will build up a portion of Park Drive to maintain access to the Kennebecasis Park neighbourhood.

Other areas of the town vulnerable to flooding include Alexander Avenue, Rothesay Park, Sagamore Point and the lower end of Cameron Road.

"The homes and Rothesay Park are particularly vulnerable," said Rothesay Mayor Nancy Grant, recommending people in vulnerable areas evacuate their homes.

"I know we're going to see damage there."

Several recreational facilities have been affected by flooding, including the Kennebecasis Rowing Club, James Renforth Tennis Club, McGuire Centre and East Riverside Park.

In neighbouring Quispamsis, Mayor Gary Clark said about 200 residents live in the flood zone.

"This is a very serious situation," said Clark. "It's unprecedented water levels by this weekend."

Areas of concern for Quispamsis include Gondola Point Road, Meenans Cove Road, Model Farm Road and Hammond River Road.

Water has covered the courts at the James Renforth Tennis Club in Rothesay. (CBC)

A few dozen streets in Grand Bay-Westfield have been affected in some way by the flood.

In particular Shannon Road, Brundage Point Road, Hammond Road and Nerepis Road have no further access, according to the head of Grand Bay-Westfield EMO Troy Gautreau.

"In addition to that we have probably 30 streets throughout the town where houses are being impacted," said Gautreau.

Gautreau said any road within 1,000 feet (about 305 metres) of the river could be affected.

Over on the Kennebecasis River in Hampton, things aren't as bad, but some flooding is happening there as well.

Portions of Main Street and Cemetery Road have been closed off but homes have so far been spared.

"I don't think there's been seepage of any consequence into anyone's house," said Ken Chorley.

"We have sand actually at the public work garage should anyone require it, but unfortunately we haven't been able to get the bags."

Cooke Aquaculture is sending three boats to Grand Bay-Westfield and Kennebecasis Valley areas to help with flood relief.

Flood has closed 3 schools

A boat provided by Cooke Aquaculture is helping with flood relief efforts in Grand Bay-Westfield. (Rachel Cave/CBC)

Flooding has caused the closure of three schools in southern New Brunswick.

Morna Heights Elementary School in Saint John, Belleisle Regional High School and Belleisle Elementary are closed today.

Ferries have also been affected along the lower Saint John River Valley.

The Belleisle Bay, Evandale, Westfield and Summerville-Millidgeville ferries are not running, but the two ferries at Gondola Point are.

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