Hundreds of Constance Bay residents told to leave their homes

As the water levels rise perilously close to the electrical system in Constance Bay, hundreds of people living on Bayview Drive are being asked to voluntarily evacuate 300 homes Tuesday evening, as Mayor Jim Watson warned that "the worst is yet to come."

Mayor Jim Watson warns 'the worst is yet to come' as river peaks later this week

A man peers from his porch on Bayview Drive in Constance Bay on Tuesday morning as floodwater surrounds his home. On Tuesday afternoon, city officials announced power was being shut off to this section of the street, and hundreds of homeowners have been advised to leave. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

As the water levels rise perilously close to the electrical system in Constance Bay, hundreds of people living on Bayview Drive are being asked to voluntarily evacuate 155 homes on Tuesday evening, as Mayor Jim Watson warned that "the worst is yet to come." 

In an update at Ottawa City Hall on Tuesday afternoon, Watson beseeched more volunteers to help the thousands of residents, students and military members currently involved in the effort to shore up sandbag dikes and watch over pumps in flood-prone areas of the city.

It's an emotional decision to move out of your home, but it's the right decision to make at this time.- Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson

Pierre Poirier, the city's head of emergency management, announced power will be shut off to a stretch of Bayview Drive in Constance Bay, where residents have been advised to leave, as water fills their street.

Local Coun. Eli El-Chantiry said the waters had simply risen too high.

"Unfortunately, mother nature is a lot stronger than us," El-Chantiry told media at the Royal Canadian Legion Hall in Constance Bay.

El-Chantiry said he understands it's difficult for homeowners to comply with the evacuation order. He said he's had to make that tough decision for his own property already.

"I'm in one of those residences where we know we can't save the house. So we just turn the power off, the gas off, tell the tenant to leave and away we go," he said.

The road was closed to traffic around 9 p.m.

Evacuation is voluntary, but Poirier said he hopes residents will heed the advice of city officials and leave an area now deemed "unsafe."

"We will continue to use the power of persuasion, and also the rational thought that you're putting your life at risk," Poirier said

"We strongly recommend for their own health and well-being that they move out," Watson echoed. "It's an emotional decision to move out of your home, but it's the right decision to make at this time."

The area's community support centre for evacuees has been moved from Constance Bay to the Richcraft Recreation Complex at 4101 Innovation Dr. in Kanata, officials said.

Peak coming Wednesday

So far, 21 homeowners have chosen to leave their homes in flood-stricken areas, Poirier said.

The river is still expected to peak in the Ottawa-Gatineau area on Wednesday, in some areas 50 centimetres above levels reached during the devastating flooding of May 2017.

"The worst is yet to come," Watson warned Tuesday.

According to an update issued at 5 p.m. Tuesday by the Ottawa River Regulating Committee, which controls reservoir levels along the length of the river basin, the water level at Britannia, the nearest monitoring station to Constance Bay, was at 60.67 metres above sea level, up 12 centimetres from Monday morning, and is expected to rise another 18 centimetres to a peak of 60.85 metres on Wednesday.

At the same time, Environment Canada has issued a severe weather statement for the area, warning of a messy mix of snow, ice pellets and freezing rain changing to rain, with up to 40 millimetres predicted in some areas.

City officials don't know what impact that will have on water levels, Poirier said. 

Poirier said city drinking water has not been affected by the flooding, but residents of 40 homes at the northern end of Churchill Avenue are being asked to conserve water to ease the strain on the local storm water system. Washroom facilities and porta-potties will be made available, city officials said.

Volunteers fill sandbags in Gatineau, Que., as communities all along the Ottawa River brace for water levels to peak. (Albert Leung/CBC)

The Ottawa River Regulation Planning Board, which measures water levels, said in a Tuesday morning update that anticipated peak levels have dropped west of the capital.

Water levels went up another nine centimetres over 24 hours in Gatineau, which has seen another approximately 200 people register as flood victims in the last 24 hours for a total of 1,593, according to the city.

It's caused a westbound lane of Highway 50 to be closed around Lac Leamy, meaning severe headaches for people heading downtown.

In west Ottawa's Britannia neighbourhood, water levels rose 11 centimetres over 24 hours.

Levels are expected to peak in Ottawa, Gatineau, Pembroke, Ont., Thurso, Que., and Hawkesbury, Ont. on Wednesday and Thursday.

Poirier told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Tuesday it's hard to say how long it could be before levels start to drop.

"Once it peaks it may sustain that level for several days," he said.

"Depending on what happens upstream, if there's significant rain or significant snowmelt, the peak can be sustained or there can be a second peak."

In Ottawa, nearly 1.2 million sandbags have been made for flood-affected residents, with the help of hundreds of troops and more than 10,000 volunteers, according to the city. Staff are co-ordinating an evacuation plan for homes under "imminent threat."

CBC News captured drone footage of flooded areas in Clarence-Rockland, Ont., about 40 kilometres downstream of Ottawa, late Tuesday morning. Can't see the video below? Click here to watch the footage.

CBC received special permission from Transport Canada and local officials for the flight. Drones are normally not allowed within nine kilometres of flooded areas.

Areas along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, which are seeing some flooding but not at historic levels, could get 20 to 40 millimetres of rain.Reinforcements for property owners across the region include volunteers, the military in some of the hardest-hit areas and, in a few cases, high school students in communities such as Cumberland in eastern Ottawa and, as of today, from West Carleton Secondary School in the west end.

A home in the flooded area of Constance Bay in western Ottawa caught fire late Monday night, according to Ottawa Fire Services.

Nobody was injured.

This home in Constance Bay was damaged by flooding, then destroyed by fire. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Speaking on Parliament Hill on Tuesday, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the federal government is keeping a close eye on the situation.

"Here in the National Capital Region we're watching the bridges and the ferry crossings in this part of the Ottawa River," Goodale said.


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