No need to declare emergency over flooding yet, City of Ottawa says

As heavy rains cause chaos across parts of eastern Ontario and west Quebec, the City of Ottawa is holding off on declaring a state of emergency, officials said Friday afternoon.

About 75 properties affected by heavy rainfall, river to peak Sunday or Monday

Sandbags block Boise Lane in Cumberland in Ottawa's far east end on May 5, 2017. The city says about 75 properties — mostly in Cumberland and Constance Bay — have been affected by flooding and heavy rains. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

As heavy rains cause chaos across parts of eastern Ontario and west Quebec, the City of Ottawa is holding off on declaring a state of emergency, officials said Friday afternoon.

"At this time, staff do not recommend declaring a state of emergency, as city services are responding within their capacity," said Anthony Di Monte, the city's general manager of emergency and protective services, in a Friday afternoon memo to Mayor Jim Watson and the rest of city council.

"The city is currently working with and is receiving voluntary assistance from the province, which has already provided sandbags, for example. There are no financial or operational benefits to declaring a state of emergency."

Roughly 75 properties in Ottawa have been affected by the rainfall, Di Monte said. The memo did not specify where these affected properties were located, but a city spokesperson later said they were "mostly in Constance Bay and Cumberland."

Declaring an emergency is not necessary for homeowners to seek financial help under the province's Disaster Recovery Assistance Program, he added.

'We have all the necessary resources'

Speaking to reporters Friday afternoon in Cumberland, Watson expanded on why the city would be — for the time being — maintaining the status quo.

"The city really has not declared a state of emergency since the ice storm. So it has to be something of that magnitude," Watson said.

"Declaring a state of emergency allows us to, for instance, go out and get equipment without going through a tender process because it's an emergency situation. We have all the necessary resources."

The city really has not declared a state of emergency since the ice storm.- Mayor Jim Watson

Although the City of Ottawa is holding off on making a declaration, states of emergencies have been declared in other communities, including Clarence-Rockland, Ont. — giving them the power to obtain provincial and federal assistance and issue a mandatory evacuation order.

"Obviously, they don't have the same resources we do," Watson said. 

"We've offered to help both Gatineau and Clarence-Rockland if they require help with their fire service or public works, because obviously they're in a much more difficult situation than we are at this point."

Between 40 to 60 millimetres of rain is expected to fall in Ottawa-Gatineau from now until Sunday, and Environment Canada has issued a rainfall warning for the city

Local conservation authorities have issued flood watches and warnings, and the board that manages the Ottawa River basin told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning said the rising waters on that waterway were "very worrying."

In his memo, Di Monte said that — based on the current forecast — water levels on the Ottawa River are expected to peak either Sunday or Monday.

Di Monte said that as of 3 p.m., emergency lodging was being made available at two locations in the city: 

  • Royal Canadian Legion 616 at 377 Allbirch Rd.
  • The Francois Dupuis Recreation Centre at 2263 Portobello Blvd.

Ottawa Fire Services will also be out conducting "wellness checks," assessing any potential electrical hazards and helping people willing to voluntarily leave their homes, Di Monte said.

City staff will also be out supplying sandbags at "heavily affected areas," he added.

With files from Ashley Burke