Toronto

Water levels set to peak in Bracebridge, Ont., amid flooding emergency

The mayor of a small Muskoka town warned Friday that rising water levels in a river that edges through the community are set to peak, threatening to flood several properties and force more residents from their homes. 

Up to 50 mm of rain expected to fall in Muskoka Region on Friday, Environment Canada warns

Environment Canada is warning that the ground has 'little ability' to absorb up to 50 millimetres of rain expected to soak Bracebridge, Ont., and the Muskoka Region on Friday. (Makda Ghebreslassie/CBC)

The mayor of a small Muskoka town warned Friday that rising water levels in a river that edges through the community are set to peak, threatening to flood several properties and force more residents from their homes. 

"This is a lot of water and it's not going to go," Bracebridge, Ont., Mayor Graydon Smith said. 

Rain and meltwater have already caused a pair of lakes north of the town to swell well past their banks and more heavy rain is in the forecast. 

Both Fairy Lake and Mary Lake, near the neighbouring town of Huntsville, drain into the Muskoka River that runs through Bracebridge. Both lakes have seen flooding in recent days, said Smith, and don't have the capacity to take on any more water.

The Muskoka River has overflowed its banks, swamping many homes in the Springdale Shores neighbourhood. (Makda Ghebreslassie/CBC)

"The worst sound in the world was me holding up an umbrella and hearing the tick, tick, tick of the water on it today because we just know it's going to lead to more heartache for more people," he said in an interview with CBC Radio's Metro Morning.

Environment Canada has issued a rainfall warning for the Muskoka Region, predicting up to 50 millimetres of rainfall by Saturday morning.   

"The ground, already near saturation, has little ability to absorb further rainfall," the warning read.

Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith is asking cottage owners not to go to their properties to check for damage this weekend due to the threat of rising water levels to public safety. (Makda Ghebreslassie/CBC)

Bracebridge, around 150 kilometres northeast of Toronto, declared a state of emergency on Wednesday as river and lake levels continued to rise.

Officials say water levels are threatening to surpass those seen in 2013, when floods devastated the town.  

The nearby Township of Minden Hills has also declared an emergency due to flooding, while dozens of other areas in the Muskoka Region are under flood watches or warnings. 

Large volumes of water are collecting in low-lying areas, particular at the point where the Muskoka River flows into Lake Muskoka.

"Flooding has got the potential to get worse there," the mayor said. 

Barbara Smith says water from the Muskoka River is quickly rising up the side of her cottage. (Mike Cole/CBC)

Barbara Smith owns a cottage in the Springdale Shores neighbourhood. The area, along the North Branch of the Muskoka River, is often one of the hardest hit by inclement weather. In the last 50 years, she says she has never seen the flooding this bad. 

"There's not really anything we can do," she told CBC Toronto. 

A small creek, an offshoot from the river, has encroached on her yard and the water is now climbing up the base of her house.  

"We're hoping it's strong enough to withstand this," she said. 

Some Bracebridge residents have been using boats and canoes to access their homes. (Marie Helene Ratel/Radio-Canada)

Meanwhile, the mayor is warning his 16,000 constituents that the current situation is more than a typical spring thaw.

"It's very far from it," he said. 

Premier Doug Ford, whose family has a cottage in the area, has promised that the province will "spare no resources" to help Bracebridge, Huntsville and any other communities in the Muskoka Region hit by flooding. 

Officials from the Electrical Safety Authority have already turned off the power to some homes in the Springdale Shores neighbourhood over safety concerns. 

A dozen roads in the area have also been closed due to flooding. "The integrity and safety of the road cannot be guaranteed and may pose a hazard," town officials said in a news release. 

"Avoid driving through water on roads. Even shallow, fast-moving water across a road can sweep a vehicle or a person away," Environment Canada added.  

Water has overflowed the banks of the Muskoka River in the middle of Bracebridge. (Makda Ghebreslassie/CBC)

Smith is asking anyone who planning to drive north to check on their properties over the weekend to "respect the fact that this is a major event" and wait until the flooding emergency has subsided. 

"Don't imperil your own safety. Don't drive on a closed road, it's illegal to do so when it's closed for a reason. You don't know what's underneath it," he continued.

"While everyone values their property, please value your personal safety more."

Bracebridge declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, warning residents that the current situation is more than a typical spring thaw, Mayor Graydon Smith said. (Marie Helene Ratel/Radio-Canada)

With files from CBC Radio's Metro Morning and Makda Ghebreslassie

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