Ottawa

In Pointe-Gatineau, residents try to prevent repeat of 2017 floods

The low-lying neighbourhood on the shore of the Gatineau River was one of the hardest hit areas during the extensive spring 2017 floods, with more than 100 lots suffering some degree of damage.

'People are tough, and they are ready,' says Gatineau mayor

Volunteers help Elyse Lagace, right, protect her home in Pointe-Gatineau from flooding on April 21, 2019. The neighbourhood was hit hard by floods two years ago, and residents are worried the same fate will befall them once again. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Elyse Lagace hadn't even finished repairing the 2017 flood damage to her Pointe-Gatineau home when she suddenly found herself once again piling up sandbags.

The 57-year-old is among dozens of residents who've been racing to protect their properties from what could be the second devastating flood to hit the low-lying Gatineau, Que., neighbourhood in two years.

"I'm not [doing] very good," Lagace told CBC News Sunday. "I want to cry."

The low-income neighbourhood on the shore of the Gatineau River was one of the hardest hit areas during the extensive spring 2017 floods, with more than 100 lots suffering some degree of damage.

Muddy brown water poured through the neighbourhood, submerging cars, flooding basements, and making the streets look more like canals.

'They are ready'

Public officials, however, are hopeful that residents who lived through that experience are better prepared to handle this year's inclement conditions.

"People are tough. And they are ready," said Gatineau Mayor MaximePedneaud-Jobin, who was in the neighbourhood Sunday helping with the flood preparations.

"It was difficult in 2017, but now I think we're all more efficient citizens. They know their house. They know their needs. The city is here faster. My feeling is that we're ready for what's coming."

Even with a break in the rain and river levels appearing to peak at levels lower than expected, nearly 1,000 properties in Gatineau are at risk of flooding.

The city has opened a victim assistance centre for anyone requiring emergency help.

"It's very difficult for many citizens, because they lost a lot the last time. They invested in their house, and they may lose it again," said Pedneaud-Jobin.

"And for many citizens in a neighbourhood like this, their house is the only thing they have."

Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin pitched in with flood preparation work in the city's Pointe-Gatineau neighbourhood on April 21, 2019.

Determination and desperation

Steve MacKinnon, the MP for Gatineau, said he felt there was a more "orderly pace" to flood preparations this time around.

Still, the work has also been emotionally draining, he said.

"You saw on the faces of people [that they] can't imagine going through again what we just went through only two years ago," MacKinnon said.

"And that's why you're seeing a lot more fatigue — yes, determination, but also this sort of desperation that we're into events that we no longer control."

As for Lagace, while her home might still lack proper carpeting and insulation after it was damaged in 2017, she vowed to do her best to keep it safe this time around.

"I hope [it will be OK]. I hope," she said. "But I'm not sure."

Pointe-Gatineau homeowner Elyse Lagace takes a break from flood preparation work to have a conversation with Gatineau MP Steve MacKinnon. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

With files from Judy Trinh and Radio-Canada