Ottawa

Renfrew County still fears 2nd flood peak from winter melt

On Friday, emergency officials sat beside municipal and provincial politicians and presented a dire assessment of the threat floodwaters still posed to some 1,000 properties in the region.

Residents can't 'let their guards down,' says emergency coordinator

The Canadian Coast Guard has provided two watercraft to deliver services to people cut off from roads because of flooding in Renfrew County. (County of Renfrew Emergency Services)

While Ottawa River levels gradually stabilize across much of eastern Ontario, it's a different story for residents in Renfrew County.

According to the Ottawa River Regulating Committee, the river is expected to still rise another 40 centimetres near Pembroke, Ont., before it peaks next week, due to melting snow along the northern part of the Ottawa River basin.

So on Friday, county emergency officials sat beside municipal and provincial politicians and presented a dire assessment of the threat floodwaters still posed to some 1,000 properties in the region.

Michael Nolan, director of emergency services for the County of Renfrew, is warning residents to prepare for another month of dealing with flooding. 0:49

"We can easily anticipate that we have at least another month's worth of heavy lifting ahead of us," said Michael Nolan, the county's community emergency management co-ordinator.

"We're urging residents to carefully watch the forecast and not let their guards down at this time."

Still under emergency

The county was still under a state of emergency Friday, as were the Ottawa Valley townships of Whitewater Region, Horton, McNab/Braeside, Laurentian Valley, Greater Madawaska and Killaloe-Hagarty-Richards, and the town of Pembroke.

Nolan said people who've spent the last two weeks building sandbag walls to hold back the floodwaters will have to ensure those walls can endure another several weeks. 

The number of people who have left their homes has grown to more than 150, officials said. A number of residents are also cut off behind flooded roads and bridges.  

The community around Lacroix Bay has been cut off because of washed-out roads. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

Drone deliveries

Paramedics are keeping an eye on people who are remaining in their homes to protect their properties, with emergency crews performing more than 800 wellness checks, Nolan said.

With toxic water spilling over local roadways, Nolan said his staff have used drone technology to deliver everything from medication to defibrillators.

The Canadian Coast Guard has also provided two boats and has been making deliveries to people who've been cut off.

Paramedics in Renfrew County are using a drone to deliver medicine and other supplies to residents cut off by the flooded roads. (County of Renfrew)

Unknown infrastructure damage

The county has four river systems running through it, with the Ottawa River, the Petawawa River, the Bonnechere River, and the Madawaska River all making flood level predictions more complex.

One of the big challenges for municipal officials will be assessing the flood's impact on infrastructure once the water recedes, and the cost taxpayers will bear for repairs.

Roads, bridges, and other structures — some submerged for more than a month — will have to be assessed once the water is gone. 

For example, high waters shut down Petawawa Boulevard at the bridge leading to the Canadian Army garrison on April 30. While it's since reopened, Reeve Glenn Doncaster said the banks around it continue to erode, and the repair bill could amount to millions of dollars. 

Elected officials in Renfrew County listen during a press conference on May 3, 2019, where emergency officials laid out their dire forecast for a lasting flood. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

'Need to be responsive'

Municipalities will, however, be able to apply to the province under a special disaster relief fund to help with rebuilding. 

"Every time we are in one of these situations, we want to make sure we expedite the process as much as possible," Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark said.

The province gained experience after the 2018 tornadoes, Clark said, in terms of speeding up the application process for victims and releasing funds to municipalities.

"We learn from every unfortunate event like this," Clark said. "We are very very mindful of the need to be responsive to the needs of the community."

Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark, centre, said the province has 'unfortunately' learned from previous catastrophic events how to better help residents during the aftermath. (CBC)

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