Exhaustion setting in as Ottawa River levels begin to stabilize
Residents told to be on alert while Ottawa remains under state of emergency
Water levels are beginning to stabilize once again on stretches of the Ottawa River, with peaks expected either today or tomorrow in the capital region and further downstream.
The City of Ottawa said that water levels in Constance Bay, Britannia and Cumberland are expected to peak Sunday or Monday at heights just below those reached in an earlier peak this year.
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Ottawa remains under a state of emergency, and residents are being asked to leave their sandbag walls up and remain on alert this weekend.
Water levels rose also between two to six centimetres in various areas of Gatineau over the last 24 hours, the City of Gatineau reported early Sunday morning.
From Lac Coulonge to Lac Deschênes, levels continue to slowly rise and will likely peak Monday, according to Sunday's update from the Ottawa River Regulation Planning Board (ORRPB).
Further down the river, from the Hull Marina to Hawkesbury, the levels have likely hit their peak, the board said.
The ORRPB said levels have temporarily stabilized near Pembroke, Ont., and Westmeath, Ont. but could rise again as levels increase in reservoirs even further upstream.
Exhaustion taking over
In Gatineau's Lac Beauchamp district, Ronald Sweeney counts himself lucky.
The basement of his home is dry, but some of his neighbours aren't so fortunate.
"Some of them have left. They've given up. They said, 'You know, we'll take the money, whatever [the government] gives us, and we're leaving,'" he said.
"I know some of them have houses worth twice as much as they may ever get from the government, and it's unfortunate."
Sweeney said he's also seen a lot of exhaustion on the faces of his neighbours, after so many weeks spent trying to protect their homes.
"They don't sleep as much. They have to make sure that the power is still on so their pumps are still working," he said.
Many people have relied on volunteers to help fill sandbags and build massive walls around their homes.
The volunteer response has been amazing, said Nicole Létourneau — especially compared to 2017, when the floodwaters ended up damaging her home on Boulevard Hurtubise beyond repair.
Létourneau said she felt alone three years ago, until a couple drove up in a boat and knocked at her door, offering soup and sandwiches.
"I mean I just basically started to cry. I was so touched that someone was helping us. We were so stuck," said Létourneau.
"But this year it's every night. It's really really quite amazing."
Her mother still lives on Hurtubise and has been checked on every day, she said.
Rain affects water levels
Recent rains and reservoirs in the northern stretches of the watershed are increasing the volume of water in the river. Those reservoirs are full and can no longer hold back water, which they did earlier in the spring.
After weeks of rising waters, devastating floods surged through parts of the Ottawa-Gatineau area, forcing hundreds of people from their homes.
Many residents in Pontiac, Que., where most of the evacuations took place on April 29, were able to return home last weekend. Several residents have not been able to return yet after their homes were severely damaged.
Ottawa River levels near Pembroke, Ont., broke a nearly 60-year-old record Saturday, reaching a height of 113.68 metres above sea level — one centimetre higher than the previous record set in 1960.
Those levels rose by another centimetre Sunday.
Almost 150 Canadian soldiers are helping in hard-hit areas northwest of Ottawa, including the townships of Laurentian Valley and Whitewater Region.
More than 100 Canadian Armed Forces members were in Pembroke on Saturday to protect critical infrastructure and support residents as floodwaters peaked.
With files from Kimberley Molina