Ottawa

Under water, again

While the swollen Ottawa River has finally begun to recede, victims who've dealt with flooding before say the worst isn't over. That will come when the adrenaline fades, the military packs up, the waters recede and they're left to pick up the pieces.

'Why did I go through all that, why did I work so hard for all this if this happened?'

David Proulx says most of the work to repair his house after the floods in 2017 had only just finished when the Ottawa River swelled again this spring, once again inundating his home with water. (CBC News)

While the swollen Ottawa River has finally begun to recede, victims who've dealt with flooding before say the worst isn't over. That will come when the adrenaline fades, the military packs up, the waters recede and they're left with the damage.

Hundreds of people in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que., faced a hard choice after the devastating floods in 2017: stay on the floodplain and rebuild the homes they loved, or pick up and move elsewhere.

Many chose to remain, to use their insurance, disaster recovery aid and/or help from family and friends, and start construction.

For some, that work was still ongoing or had only just finished when the waters rose again this year, two springs later, shattering records kept by the organization that has monitored the Ottawa River basin for more than a century.

CBC News captured aerial footage of the recent flooding in Gatineau, Que., and Clarence-Rockland, Ont. 1:44

Many of those records had just been broken in 2017.

David Proulx in Gatineau's Masson-Angers sector is part of one of the hundreds of families hit twice by floodwaters in the National Capital Region. They decided to renovate after what happened in 2017, and finished the majority of that work only a month and a half ago.

Then, the water rose to about half a metre on the main floor of their home.

A Canada Post mailbox sits in water near the flooded banks of the Ottawa River in east Ottawa's Cumberland community on Tuesday, April 30, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

"It's discouraging because you went through it [before]. You did all the renos, you worked for it, and then you ask yourself, 'Why did I go through all that, why did I work so hard for all this if this happened?'" the father of two asked the CBC's Hannah Thibedeau on April 30.

"We are tired, physically and mentally, and I think that's the worst feeling right now, is knowing that you still lost the house after all that."

But the idea of leaving now — even after this second flood and grim warnings about climate change and an increasing number of environmental disasters — just doesn't appeal to him.

"I guess we start all over again," he said. "...We have to. I have a family, and family is first, you know? And this is their place."

Renaud Arnaud says the hardest part of the flooding in 2017 was deciding to demolish his family's new house once floodwaters receded and costs to repair the property ran too high. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Renaud Arnaud's family made the opposite call in 2017, accepting a provincial government buyout and demolishing the home they'd bought only four months before the flooding hit Gatineau's Lac-Beauchamp sector, taking the heavy loss on the new mortgage.

Now, they live in a fourth-floor apartment, far above any flooding danger.

Standing Thursday on the land where his former house once stood, Arnaud repeatedly broke down. When the waters receded two years ago the family initially thought they could stay, but as the costs grew and grew, they decided to leave.

"Beyond the financial loss, which is significant, it's your home. It's the neighbourhood where we planned to raise our kid, and everything that you dreamed of is gone. You close a chapter of your life, and then you have to move on. So we moved on," Arnaud said.

"And I think it was the wise decision. When I see the water back again, we probably made the right decision by moving on."

In his family's experience, the worst part of the whole ordeal was having to decide what to do once the water had receded.

"The flood is something, but it is the aftermath that, in our experience, was the most challenging."

2019 floods: The week in Ottawa-Gatineau 3:48

Final tally to come

It will be weeks before the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau have recorded all the damage, and residents and governments have tallied their bills. Water levels are expected to remain high for the next two weeks at least, and could even rise again if there's a significant amount of rain, the Ottawa River Regulation Planning Board said Friday.

In Ottawa, 155 homes had been evacuated and more than 1.6 million sandbags had been distributed as of Friday.

In Gatineau, 111 homes had been evacuated, 923 damaged and more than 885,000 sandbags had been distributed as of Friday.

After the 2017 flooding, the province of Ontario approved 108 applications for assistance under the Disaster Recovery Assistance Ontario program in defined parts of Ottawa, Clarence-Rockland, Alfred and Plantagenet and Champlain.

In total, the program has provided about $3,469,000 in those areas for people who couldn't receive other forms of help, such as insurance.

In nearby Renfrew County, 89 of 114 applications were approved and about $1,725,000 has been doled out.

So far this year, the program has been activated for Renfrew County, including Pembroke, Ont., and a section of Bolton, Ont. It's expected that more areas will be added.

As the river rose

The following charts show how water levels rose above normal along the Ottawa River this spring, from Pembroke, Ont., upstream of Ottawa, to Hawkesbury, Ont., downstream, according to data provided by the Ottawa River Regulation Planning Board.

Can't see the charts above? Click here for water levels in Pembroke, Ont., water levels in Arnprior, Ont., water levels in Ottawa's Britannia neighbourhood, water levels at the Hull marina in Gatineau, and water levels in Hawkesbury, Ont.

Photos

A man stands on a wall of sandbags protecting a home from flooding in Clarence-Rockland, Ont., east of Ottawa, on Sunday, April 28, 2019. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)
Water levels in Ottawa's Fitzroy Harbour partially submerged this truck on Saturday, April 27, 2019. (Ryan Garland/CBC)
A flooded residence in Ottawa's Constance Bay community on Friday, April 26, 2019. (David Richard/Radio-Canada)
A home's number sign is nearly submerged in Constance Bay on Saturday, April 27, 2019. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)
An Ottawa police officer conducts a wellness check at a home surrounded by water in Constance Bay on Saturday, April 27, 2019. By Friday, May 2, 849 wellness visits had been conducted across Ottawa. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)
Volunteers form a human chain to pass along sandbags to protect Ottawa's Britannia Bay on Sunday, April 28, 2019. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)
People standing along the road wave as a Canadian Armed Forces light armoured vehicle passes in Constance Bay on Tuesday, April 30, 2019. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)
Troops build a wall of sandbags to protect a home from the flooding Ottawa River in Constance Bay on Tuesday, April 30, 2019. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)
Students from Terry Fox Elementary School join other volunteers to form a sand bag assembly line in Ottawa's Cumberland community on Tuesday, April 30, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Workers prepare for higher flood waters in Britannia Bay on Monday, April 29, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Vehicles drive through floodwaters in Ottawa's Fitzroy Harbour community on Monday, April 29, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Eight-year-old Bryce Hudson takes a short break while helping to fill sandbags in Quyon, Que., on Saturday, April 27, 2019. (Andrew Lee/Radio-Canada)
A man in hip waders moves a canoe in flooded Constance Bay. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)
Students join fellow volunteers as they form a sandbag assembly line, fighting to hold back floodwaters on the Ottawa River in Cumberland on Tuesday, April 30, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

With files from the CBC's Hallie Cotnam and Hannah Thibedeau

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