Hundreds forced from homes, part of Trans-Canada closed as river rises below Fredericton

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Hundreds forced from homes, part of Trans-Canada closed as river rises below Fredericton

by - 5 min read

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The New Brunswick government will close the Trans-Canada Highway between Oromocto and Moncton on Wednesday night to deal with flooding, forcing drivers to take a detour that will add 90 kilometres to their travels.

The highway has already been reduced to one lane in some westbound sections near Jemseg because the St. John River is spilling onto the pavement. 

Water levels will continue to fluctuate in the Fredericton area over the next couple of days and will increase downriver, the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization said Wednesday afternoon.

On Grand Lake, there is still a lot of ice in the water, and the wind could exacerbate damage to properties along the shore, said Greg MacCallum, the EMO director.

Hundreds registered with Red Cross

At least 490 people have been forced from their homes by flooding along the river, the Red Cross says.

The number will continue to grow as more people downriver of Fredericton start to make plans to evacuate, said Bill Lawlor, provincial director of the Canadian Red Cross.

A man pushes a baby carriage through the water up Winslow Street in Fredericton, where water levels are expected to continue to fluctuate over the next couple of days. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Lawlor said most of the 491 people registered with the Red Cross are from the Fredericton, Grand Lake and Jemseg areas, but Lawlor said the Red Cross is already seeing a few register in the Saint John and Grand-bay Westfield as well.

Flood levels have dropped slightly in Fredericton, but the NBEMO is warning people to continue preparing for the worst.

The water level hit a record 8.35 metres in Fredericton on Tuesday.

Calls for patience

Geoffrey Downey, an EMO spokesperson, said river levels were at about 8.25 metres on Wednesday morning in Fredericton.

According to Environment Canada, Tuesday night’s peak level was 8.364 metres in Fredericton at around 11 p.m.

MacCallum asked people to remain patient.

He said he understands patience can wear thin, but yelling at workers posted at barricades or engaging in road rage isn’t helpful,

EMO’s Geoffrey Downey lists what a 72-hour flood kit should contain and why. 0:47

New Brunswickers will get through this, but it’ll be “a lot easier if we show some care and compassion,” he said.

In Fredericton, 35 roads are still impacted by flooding, and many downtown surface parking lots are out of commission.

Wayne Tallon, director of Fredericton’s emergency measures organization, said ramps onto the Westmorland Street Bridge are still underwater.

Tallon also said the city has placed police officers at barricades to prevent people from driving past or moving them.

“People weren’t respecting them, so those enforcements have been increased and now we are fining people.”

Tallon said Fredericton police have given two tickets to people going around barricades. He urged residents to respect barricades. The minimum fine for ignoring or moving a barricade is $172.50.

“What they don’t understand is if they are travelling at a certain speed, it creates wake, and wake obviously can cause damage to basement windows and property.”

The city also asked drivers who commute home from the east end to take Queen Street, and those who travel from the west end to take Westmorland Street.

Evacuation recommended

Blair Sullivan, a Fredericton fire platoon captain, said the department responded to about 30 calls for assistance on Tuesday and overnight.

Most of them were from the lower St. Mary’s and Lincoln areas and people looking for help moving themselves and their personal belongings out of their homes.

A Fredericton man tends to a water pump by hanging out his window. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Sullivan said there are two command posts set up: at the Forst Haskwaak Motel on the north side of the river, and on Glacier Road in the Lincoln area.

Nine people staff those two areas and evacuation operations were continuing on Wednesday morning.

“Nothing out of the ordinary for flood season.”

Oromocto Fire Department Chief Jody Price said water levels in the town rose by about 10 cm overnight. 

Tuesday was an extremely busy day for evacuations and wellness checks, he said, and windy conditions forced the department to pull some smaller boats off the river.

Facebook caption: This Mill Cove family might have to start dealing with the 2019 flood damage before they’ve even finished renovations after the 2018 flood. 0:47

Price said even after the river stabilizes, it will take a while for the flood to recede enough so people can travel freely.

“We’re asking people that are living in that area to consider leaving.”

First responders have been assisting with emergency evacuations since Tuesday, as rising water levels have forced people to leave their homes. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Lawlor encouraged people evacuating their homes to register with the Red Cross even if they don’t need immediate assistance. 

“Do not wait until the water has cut you off from your ability to leave.”

Power still out on Grand Lake

Power is still out for some of those in the Princess Park, Sunnyside Beach and Sypher Cove areas of Grand Lake. As of 6:40 a.m. local time, more than 150 NB Power customers were still without power.

Residents in the area said power went out at around 4 a.m. Tuesday.

How high will the St. John River rise this spring, and does the Mactaquac Dam have anything to do with it? A New Brunswick flood, explained. 1:26

Marc Belliveau, a NB Power spokesperson, said at a news conference Tuesday that NB Power had used helicopters to survey the area, and determined the outage was caused by five downed poles that are inaccessible because of the flooding.

Belliveau said Wednesday morning in an email statement that not much has changed since Tuesday because the area is still inaccessible due to ice and water over the roads.

School closures

Some schools in western New Brunswick and the Fredericton area were closed again Wednesday.

The Anglophone West school district closed George Street Middle School on Wednesday, in addition to the schools that were closed Tuesday — Andover Elementary School, Perth-Andover Middle School, Southern Victoria High School and Barker’s Point Elementary School.

At Grand Lake, the Chipman Elementary School and Chipman Forest Avenue School were closed at 11 a.m.

In Springfield, Belleisle Regional High School closed at 2:30 p.m.

Some buses in the Maugerville, Oromocto, Grand Lake, Fredericton and Lincoln areas were delayed or cancelled.

Fredericton City Hall and city offices were closed on Wednesday. Government offices in downtown Fredericton were open for essential services only.

This story originally appeared on CBC

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