Outaouais flooding: Streets like canals, basements like pools

While Gatineau seems to be the hardest-hit area so far, communities on both sides of the Ottawa River are dealing with flooding and the possibility of even higher water levels as the weekend — and heavy rainfall — approaches.

Entire region on alert as water levels approach 40-year high

Fernand Viau can only watch as the rising Ottawa River surrounds his home in Cumberland. (CBC)

While Gatineau seems to be the hardest-hit area so far, communities on both sides of the Ottawa River are dealing with flooding and the possibility of even higher water levels as the weekend — and heavy rainfall — approaches.

With somewhere around 50 millimetres of precipitation predicted in the days ahead, Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin is warning residents to get ready for worst.

"What we're asking from citizens is to prepare themselves, but to prepare themselves for several days. When it begins to recede, it's going to take time to go down, so they'll have to arm themselves with patience," he said.

A Cumberland resident walks waist deep in water from his garage. Another 50 mm of rain is expected this weekend. (Roger Dubois/CBC)
At a news conference, Pednaud-Jobin encouraged residents interested in volunteering with relief efforts to register with the City of Gatineau's 311 information line. (Gatineau residents who cannot get through to 311, or residents from other communities such as Ottawa that want to help, can call the City of Gatineau at 819-595-2002 or toll free at 1-866-299-2002.)

Pednaud-Jobin said he wanted to avoid calling a state of emergency because he's hesitant to force people out of their homes unless absolutely necessary.

Quebec's minister responsible for the Outaouais, Stéphanie Vallée, said the province, in cooperation with the Red Cross, will make assistance available to people in need. She said she hopes that will encourage people to leave their homes if necessary.

The Red Cross has 40 hotel rooms available for people in need, and is negotiating with more hotels and motels in the event that flooding worsens. 

The numbers so far:

According to the City of Gatineau, more than 100,000 sandbags are on order and expected to arrive by Friday. That's on top of the 132,000 that have already been distributed since April 18. 

Homes and flood victims

  • At least 240 people have left their homes on a voluntary basis. 
  • At least 130 homes evacuated.
  • At least 122 people looked after by the Red Cross. 
  • At least 467 homes visited by firefighters since May 1.
  • At least 24 pets evacuated, including dogs, cats, a hamster, a ferret and a bird.

Other communities bracing themselves

According to South Nation Conservation authority, flood levels along the Ottawa River are expected to peak early next week.

According to a news release, "water levels are expected to continue to increase this week and may cause significant flooding between Gatineau and Grenville.

"Residents are advised to stay away from watercourses where flows are high and where banks might be unstable, particularly in the Township of Alfred and Plantagenet. Parents are encouraged to explain these dangers to their children."

The beach at Petrie Island in Orléans is nearly submerged, and could soon disappear completely if flood waters rise as expected. (CBC/Ashley Burke)

In Cumberland, crews have been using boats to get to people who need to be evacuated from their homes.

Residents including Fernand Viau, whose Morin Street home is surrounded by water, fear heavy rainfall will fill their homes with water.

The councillor responsible for the area, Stephen Blais, has toured the affected area and said city officials are monitoring the situation.

And in Clarence-Rockland, the city has declared a state of emergency as dozens of volunteers were on hand Thursday to fill sandbags for friends, neighbours and even strangers as the Ottawa River is lapping right up to waterfront homes.

High alert in Pontiac 

Back on the Quebec side, municipal officials in Pontiac remain vigilant, according to Mayor Roger Larose.

Around 20 homes have been vacated, while 30 or so remaining without power, he told Radio-Canada. The most affected roads are du Saphir, Dion and Bord-de-L'Eau.

Larose said residents have been prepared for some time, but the sandbags on hand weren't enough to keep the water out. Some roads are completely submerged. In all, 200 Pontiac residents are threatened by the flooding, he said.

Dozens of homes have been evacuated in Pontiac, and 200 more are under threat of flooding. (CBC/Radio-Canada)