CK Flood 2019

State of emergency declared as Thames River dike fails in Chatham-Kent

A state of emergency has been declared in Chatham-Kent.

The state of emergency was declared because of leaks in the dikes

(Dale Molnar/CBC)

A state of emergency has been declared in Chatham-Kent.

The Thames River dike has failed in multiple locations around Poppe Road and Buchanan Line in Tilbury, according to a release from the Municipality of Chatham-Kent.

Municipal staff are on scene and people are asked to avoid the area, so emergency repairs can be made, according to Chatham-Kent's general manager of infrastructure and engineering services Thomas Kelly.

Police have also started knocking on doors in the area of the breach to notify residents of the failure and repairs. 

Betsy Buchanan lives very close to the river, off Poppe Road. In a previous flood, the water had gone up to her home's kitchen counter. This time around, she isn't taking any chances.

"You have to be ready and get the stuff out of there, or the stuff gets damaged," said Buchanan. She has been moving her furniture over the past few days, much of it has gone onto her sun porch in the back.

Family, friends and neighbours have also been helping Buchanan pack sand bags. 

Her home is safe for now, but she said even with an evacuation order, she wouldn't leave.

Emergency officials: 'serious situation'

Chris Case, operations chief for Chatham-Kent emergency and fire services said overnight the ice shifted and water levels dropped.

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      "However, we found that there was a problem with the dike. They've been on the scene since 2 a.m.," said Case, adding that they were preparing for the dike to fail. 

      "When the dike fails it can flood homes, cause trouble with transport," said Case. "It's a very serious situation when that occurs."

      The state of emergency declaration provides the municipality with extra funding and resources to deal with the flooding.

      "We have our teams on standby," said Case.

      Declaring a state of emergency shows the public it's a serious issue, said Chatham-Kent communications officer Jim Blake.

      This apartment parking lot is near downtown Chatham. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

      "It's unfortunately a fact of life living in a flat area close to a river," said Blake. "It's a concern. The businesses and low-lying homes that are affected."

      The breach in the river is mostly affecting farmlands, but Blake said the flooding looks significant. 

      WATCH: Chatham-Kent Mayor Darren Canniff declares a state of emergency for the municipality

      State of emergency a 'precaution'

      In the event things get worse and the dike is fully breached, emergency officials will assess if evacuation is necessary. 

      Caniff said they don't expect "anywhere close" to the type of damage where the province would have to come in. He said the state of emergency is a precaution to give Chatham-Kent access to more resources.

      "We're hopeful the weather cooperates and the ice breaks up," said Caniff in an afternoon update.

      The water level of the Thames River has spiked since Wednesday. (CBC News)

      Municipal officials said working with the water systems and the dikes is an ongoing process, and that it was "virtually impossible" to know where all the weak points are. 

      A water rescue team was brought in yesterday to assist the Chatham fire crews if it was necessary. 

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