Toronto

Toronto Islands residents bracing for lake levels to rise up to 25 cm in weeks ahead

More than 15,000 sandbags have been strategically placed at the areas of greatest risk on the islands, reads a city update, and restrictions on public access to Toronto Island Park will remain until further notice.

More than 15,000 sandbags have been strategically placed throughout the islands

Michael Page lives on Ward's Island, and helped fill sandbags last week amid the ongoing flood concerns. (Chris Glover/CBC)

The skies are clear, but Toronto Islands residents aren't "out of the woods" just yet when it comes to flooding.

A city update sent to people living on the islands, and obtained by CBC Toronto, says the city was advised by Environment Canada that Lake Ontario levels could keep rising over the next two weeks.

More than 15,000 sandbags have been strategically placed at the areas of greatest risk on the islands, reads the city update, and restrictions on public access to Toronto Island Park will remain until further notice.

"We continue to monitor closely, and our staff are implementing mitigation measures... like sandbagging, installing pumps where they're helpful," said city spokesperson Wynna Brown.

Sandbags line the coast after concerns were raised about flooding on the Toronto Islands. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC)

Lake level could rise by up to 25 cm

Water resources engineer Rob Caldwell, Canadian regulation representative for the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board, predicts the lake could rise by somewhere between 5 to 25 centimetres in the weeks ahead.

Caldwell said he has tracked a two to three centimetre increase in the water level over just the past few days — and that rise could continue, even without another drop of rain.

"It's because of the massive amounts of water coming from upstream... but also the streams, creeks, rivers — you name it — into Lake Ontario are all very high too," he explained.

More rain is expected this weekend, according to Environment Canada, but it's not yet clear how much could fall. 

Regardless of the precipitation levels, Caldwell said this will be a long process.

"It takes a considerable amount of water to raise [lake levels] by a centimetre, but then it takes a considerable amount of time to get rid of that one centimetre of water," he said.

There are pools of water, some as large as small ponds, throughout the islands. (Lauren Pelley/CBC)

'They are saving homes'

Ward's Island resident Michael Harris said the higher water levels on the way mean his community isn't "out of the woods" yet. A geospatial image sent out by the city, he added, was also concerning.

It shows areas that already feature sandbags, and others where sandbags are still needed, along with the central and waterfront areas at risk of flooding.

City of Toronto Parks and the Toronto and Region Conservation are working with a mapping system to chart out the lowest points and areas of greatest risk. The current state is shown in this map obtained by CBC Toronto.

Despite his concerns, Harris praised the city's efforts.

"They are saving homes. They have put the bags in the right place because of the geospatial data. They were smart and got on this proactively," he said.

According to the city's update, "hundreds of staff hours have been deployed, diesel powered water pumps have been activated and all available resources have been put forth to combat the flooding."

Toronto Hydro is also keeping an eye on the islands' situation, and told CBC Toronto they will have a crew out periodically to ensure none of their equipment is at risk.

With files from Chris Glover

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