Floodwaters in southern New Brunswick could approach 2008 levels this week
EMO cautioning riverside communities south of Fredericton against significant rise in water levels
By Wednesday, the water levels in southern New Brunswick could reach heights last seen in 2008, the worst spring flooding the province experienced in 35 years.
Greg MacCallum, director of the provincial emergency measures organization, cautioned riverside communities south of Fredericton while asking for the public's patience and co-operation as the flooding is expected to persist this week.
"It's a forecasting challenge to look out several days, but the trend is that the water levels are on the rise and will continue to rise virtually from Fredericton all the way to Saint John," MacCallum said in an interview Monday.
The province's River Watch forecast indicates water levels in areas along the St. John River, such as Maugerville, Sheffield, Jemseg, Oak Point and Saint John-Quispamsis, will continue to rise well above flood stage in the next 48 hours.
The Saint John-Quispamsis area is expected to reach 5.1 metres by Wednesday. That's almost a metre above flood stage and just shy of the 5.2-metre level seen in 2008.
Oak Point is expected to surpass the 5.36-metre mark in 2008, hitting 5.4 metres by Wednesday. Sheffield could reach 6.7 metres, 0.25 metres higher than 10 years ago.
The 2008 flood caused more than $23 million in damages. More than 600 properties were affected and about 1,000 people were displaced from their homes. It was the worst spring flood since 1973.
Water levels in northwestern New Brunswick are also on the rise, MacCallum said. The communities of Clair, Saint-Hilaire and Edmundston are expected to surpass their respective flood stages in the next 48 hours.
Capital city woes
The situation in Fredericton is expected to hold at the eight-metre level until Wednesday — that's 1.5 metres above flood stage and 0.36 metres short of the 2008 mark.
Parts of the capital city's downtown remain flooded and about three dozen streets are closed.
The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure reported Monday dozens of provincial highways and roads have been affected by flooding. For a list of closed roads, click here.
MacCallum preached patience and cautioned the public against ignoring or moving barricades to access restricted roads. He said fluctuating river levels may fool some people into thinking the water is going down.
"They maybe make assumptions about the fact that the worst is over," MacCallum said.
"Unfortunately, what we've got here is an enduring situation where the water levels aren't really discernibly changing from day to day.
"This is going to take some time and people need to be patient."
'We'll get through this'
Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien asked residents to be patient and respect the traffic measures in place.
He said the city is not near the point of having to declare a state of emergency but noted the situation will likely stay the same for the rest of the week.
"We'll get through this … and hopefully at the end of this we can all meet downtown and have a pop," O'Brien said on Information Morning Fredericton on Monday.
Two shelters have been set up in Fredericton for people displaced by flooding and with no access to temporary accommodations.
Fredericton residents can use the shelter at the Salvation Army on St. Mary's Street, and people from outlying areas can use a shelter on the University of New Brunswick campus.
Call for better modelling
Wayne Tallon, the director of Fredericton's Emergency Measures Organization, said Monday the city plans to talk to provincial partners about why their modelling didn't predict the rapid rising floodwaters.
"Obviously, the modelling that has worked very well and accurately over the years, couldn't keep up with it," Tallon said.
"I'm not dissatisfied, but we're working with technology that is not giving us the right information and the right time."
MacCallum said it's difficult to predict the rate of melt. The rapid melt was compounded by a mix of warm temperatures and rain, he said.
"We knew the recipe was there," he said, noting that EMO began warning the public a couple of days before the St. John River rose swiftly.
He said it's fortunate there have been no significant ice jams to exacerbate the situation.
With files from Information Morning and Harry Forestell