Flood waters, high currents continue to worry Clarence-Rockland residents

The eastern Ontario community has experienced more than a week of high waters and now have to contend with how the rushing current may damage their homes.

Residents concerned about high waves, driftwood after week of rising waters in Ontario city

Gilles Leroux said the fast currents brought on by flooding almost took the patio off his cottage, located near Old Highway 17 in Clarence-Rockland, Ont. (CBC)

Some residents of Clarence-Rockland, Ont., are worried about the damage that high currents brought by flood waters could wreak on their properties — including potentially carrying parts of local buildings away.

Gilles Leroux's cottage is built at the lowest point of a waterfront neighbourhood on the south shore of the Ottawa River. He said he's been fighting the high water with sandbags, and earlier this week large waves kept crashing into the building.

"With the wind and the waves coming in from the east — with the big patio we had — it was lifting the cottage, the walls, the outside walls of the cottage. We had to put in a lot of sand, now it's stable," Leroux said.

The patio of the Leroux cottage was almost ripped apart by the fast current and high waves caused by flooding on the Ottawa River earlier this week. (Supplied/Pierre-Yves Leroux)

He's hopeful, he said, because the alternative would be to feel sick about the whole situation. Leroux said the family cottage could survive the 10 to 15 centimetres the river is forecast to rise in the next couple of days —but not without a few repairs.

"We're trying just to save the furniture," he said. "We know we'll have to open the walls, take [out] whatever flooring is there and start over again."

'It might take off'

The city of about 23,000 people, located roughly 40 kilometres east of Ottawa, has been under a state of emergency since Thursday.

The city said 181 buildings are at risk of flooding and 13 families have evacuated their homes. 

Alain Masson and his partner Melanie Marcil live in a waterfront home in Clarence-Rockland, but after a week of trying to keep the rising waters away from the property, they decided it was time to leave.

"It's beautiful when it's beautiful, but it's hell when it's hell. Hell is at its highest point right now," he told CBC News at an information session the city held for people affected by the floods.

A conservation official described the current situation — a combination of heavy rainfall and snowmelt — as a once-every-20-years event, adding that the Ottawa River will achieve a record-breaking height when it hits its peak Monday or Tuesday.

Hell is at it's highest point right now.- Alain Masson, Clarence-Rockland resident

"This is just out of proportion. We're looking about at another nine or 10 feet from what the levels are in the river in mid-July or August," Masson said. "We usually stay there because it doesn't go up that high."

Masson is worried the quick current could sweep the house off its supports.

"It might take off. Hopefully, if the water doesn't raise any higher we're going to be able to salvage it, but we're crossing our fingers," he said.

Community response

Those kinds of concerns have already led to electricity being shut off on parts of Old Highway 17, according to Guy Desjardins, the mayor of Clarence-Rockland.

"Some of those are summer homes.They were built on stilts and one was starting to float. The only thing that was hanging was the electrical wire holding it back," Desjardins said.

The mayor said the hydro company assessed the situation and gave residents a chance to get generators so they could keep their pumps going.

Guy Desjardins, mayor of Clarence-Rockland, said power had to be cut to parts of Old Highway 17. (CBC)

Even though the city has declared a state of emergency, Desjardins said residents can't be compelled to leave their properties.

He said people should be aware, however, that emergency response times will become longer as water levels increase. The gas company is also monitoring the situation, he said.

Desjardins said the response from volunteers and emergency services has been strong enough that he doesn't foresee having to ask the province to call in the military, as has happened in Quebec.

"I look at Gatineau [which] has a thousand houses. I look at Rigaud down the river, that's got 400 houses. There's a bigger need there. We're not that big that we can't handle [the situation] so far. A lot of times they'll bring the army to fill [sandbags] and stuff," he said.

"There's over 100 people filling bags, and they're keeping up really well."

The Red Cross has set up an emergency shelter at the Clarence Creek Arena. The city has also appointed a volunteer coordinator to handle calls from neighbours offering their help.

Municipal officials expect to provide another update on the flood situation Sunday at 1 p.m.