Residents begin stocking up on sandbags as rain continues to fall

Papineau MNA Mathieu Lacombe, centre, speaks with volunteers in Gatineau, Que., making flooding preparations on April 19, 2019

Water levels likely won’t peak until Tuesday, says City of Ottawa

Residents living in parts of eastern Ontario and western Quebec stocked up on sandbags and continued with last-minute flooding preparations as rain continued to fall Friday throughout the region.

Heavy rains are in the forecast throughout the Easter weekend, and coupled with the melting snowpack, there are concerns the Ottawa River could rise to levels not seen since the devastating floods of 2017.

Those concerns have spurred homeowners to descend upon the many sandbag stations set up in both Ottawa and Gatineau.

“We are not badly prepared, I believe. We’re better than two years ago,” said Marc Rossignol, who, for the past two days, has been helping build a protective wall of sandbags around a friend’s home in Gatineau’s Masson-Angers sector.

In a French-langauage interview with Radio-Canada, Rossignol said people in the neighbourhood learned their lessons from the 2017 floods.

This time, he said, their wall of sandbags is 15 centimetres higher.

“We’ve filled 3,000 bags,” he said. “If the water gets by that, well, it is what it is.”

Sandbags line Fer-à-Cheval Avenue in Gatineau, Que., on April 19, 2019.
Marc Rossignol lives in the Masson-Angers sector of Gatineau, Que. He says he’s better prepared than he was during the devastating 2017 floods, and he’s ready to face any flooding that comes his way this syear.

Gatineau better prepared, mayor says

Firefighters have been going door-to-door in certain areas of the city, talking to residents about what they should do if they have to leave their homes, said Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin.

Pedneaud-Jobin told Radio-Canada the city won’t force people to evacuate unless absolutely necessary.

He also expected people have learned from the 2017 foods and have begun taking precautions, including filling sand bags.

One area that’s expected to be hit fast and hard by flooding is Fer-à-Cheval Avenue in Masson-Angers, which is bordered by water on both sides, Pedneaud-Jobin said.

He said residents are ready and are remaining calm, but know they’ll likely be the first affected.

Road closures

Environment Canada has issued rainfall warnings for much of the region, with as much as 55 millimetres of rain expected to fall in Ottawa today and tomorrow.

The threat of flooding has also led to a number of road closures.

In the east Ottawa community of Cumberland, police have closed Highway 174 in both directions between Cameron Street and Old Montreal Road until 7 p.m. Friday so that volunteers and workers can prepare.

The highway is expected to be closed from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. from Saturday until Monday, as well.

In the Outaouais, police have also closed Eardley Road between Luskville and Sainte-Cécile-de-Masham.

High water levels are seen on the Ottawa River between the communities of Hawkesbury, Ont., and Lefaivre, Ont,. on April 19, 2019.

Levels could peak Tuesday

At a press conference at Ottawa City Hall Friday afternoon, Laila Gibbons, the city’s director of roads and parking services, said officials believe water levels won’t hit their peak until Tuesday.

“Right now, we’re not seeing any flooding up onto the properties and the homes,” Gibbons said.

“We have some of our pathways systems that are along the Rideau River that we’ve closed off, and some of the typical park areas. But we haven’t seen flooding at the homes yet.”

City staff are continuously monitoring at-risk neighbourhoods to ensure sandbags are full, she said.

The municipality of Pontiac declared a state of emergency Friday in anticipation of rising water levels along the Ottawa River over the weekend, and asked for assistance from the Quebec government. 

“The anticipated rainfall combined with the spring melt are resulted in conditions in the Pontiac similar to the flooding of 2017, perhaps even higher,” Mayor Joanne Labadie said in a statement.

The municipality said sandbags would be available at three locations: the Breckenridge Fire Hall, the public works garage in Quyon, and at town hall in Luskville.

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