As flood waters rise across region, so does people's frustration

Hundreds of flooded-out residents living within the Ottawa River watershed in eastern Ontario and west Quebec are watching water levels rise with worry. The rivers aren't expected to peak until Monday at the earliest, and rain is still in the forecast.

Federal, provincial buildings in Gatineau closed Monday as flooding continues

Thomas Little shows his hands, now bandaged and bruised, after he spent days piling sandbags around his property. The sandbags are now underwater and his Gatineau house is flooded. (CBC)

Exhausted and bruised, Gatineau resident Thomas Little had to watch the water gush into his house this weekend, despite building a wall of 7,000 sandbags over the past several days.

Little is just one of hundreds of flooded-out residents living within the Ottawa River watershed, which includes communities across eastern Ontario and west Quebec.

Frustrated and angry, Little said municipal leaders should have seen the floods coming and done more to prevent the devastation. 

"The Ottawa Valley watershed is controlled by dams. People should have known that the water was coming and was rising," said Little.

'Some fairly serious flooding'

As of Sunday evening, waters continued to rise and were not expected to peak until Monday at the earliest.

Not only that, but the forecast calls for a chance of rain on both Monday and Tuesday. 

In Ontario, from the Lanark Highlands in the west to Champlain Township in the east, homes and cottages have been flooded and communities have come together to pile sandbags and help neighbours.

Julie Theriault (right) and Jean-Francois Perrault push a canoe with neighbour's belongings as they help in the flooded area of Gatineau, Que. on Sunday, May 7, 2017. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Officers with the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority were out all weekend, observing high water levels throughout the district.

"We've got some fairly serious flooding on Dalhousie Lake," said Gord Mountenay, water management supervisor for Mississippi Valley. "There are definitely homes [that have] been flooded on the entire river system."

North of Kingston, the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority said Sunday that "unprecedented water levels" were being reported on lakes along the Cataraqui River system.

The City of Kingston, meanwhile, said in an update that 170 millimeters of rain had fallen on the city since the start of May, and that multiple roads in and around the city had been closed.

Emergencies declared

On Sunday afternoon, Champlain Township — which includes the villages of Vankleek Hill and L'Orignal — became the latest community in eastern Ontario and west Quebec to declare a state of emergency.

Clarence-Rockland had called for a state of emergency late last week.

Champlain Township Mayor Gary Barton said the biggest issue was finding sandbags, but the local MP, Francis Drouin, pitched in.

"Believe it or not, our MP is delivering 4,000 more," said Barton on Sunday afternoon.

In west Quebec, flooding has displaced homeowners between Quyon and Maniwaki, and states of emergency have been declared in Gracefield and the regional municipality of Pontiac.

About 200 homes within the city of Ottawa  — from Britannia Beach to Cumberland — have been flooded, and emergency shelters have been set up to help residents.

As waters rise, National Capital Commission conservation officers have said they're concerned that fast-moving water could carry logs, large tree branches and debris — material that can smash into the bridges that span the Ottawa River.

A stretch of Highway 50 in Gatineau, seen here on May 6, 2017, was shut down over the weekend due to heavy flooding. (Jean-Sebastien Marier/CBC)

Gatineau closures

Both federal and provincial government workers in Gatineau were being urged to stay at home Monday.

A statement from the Treasury Board of Canada advised employees not to head to their offices if they normally travel via the interprovincial bridges.

Federal and provincial buildings in Gatineau will be closed Monday.The City of Gatineau has closed municipal buildings, including libraries and sports centres, and is encouraging municipal workers to also stay home to lessen the impact on traffic.

That's in part because Highway 50 in Gatineau was also shut down over the weekend and crews have been working to build a wall to shore up the road.

The Gatineau and Hull hospitals have also cancelled non-urgent procedures and surgeries, and the Outaouais campus of the University of Québec will be closed Monday morning.

Waiting for river to peak

Meanwhile, many residents will remain in or near their flooded homes, waiting for the waters to recede.

Little said he's worried about looting and has decided to stay on his upper floors while his basement living space is filled with water.  

"I don't even want to estimate what it's going to cost to fix the structure. It's going to be very expensive," said Little. "I've been here 20 years, I've seen nothing like this."