‘Morale is depleting’: Frustration mounts as Ottawa River levels expected to rise

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‘Morale is depleting’: Frustration mounts as Ottawa River levels expected to rise

by - 3 min read

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Frustrations are mounting in the Ottawa area as fatigued residents dig in for another day of warding off rising river levels.

A heavy rainfall warning for the Ottawa-Gatineau ended late last night, but as of Saturday morning officials are warning many homes along the Ottawa River are still at risk.

Despite the promising-sounding forecast, the river is still expected to swell over the weekend, said Michael Sarich, the senior regulation engineer with the Ottawa River Regulation Secretariat, which controls reservoir levels along the length of the river basin.

“There’s more water coming down within the next few days that is going to be taking us a lot higher than 2017,” he said Saturday morning, noting places like Norway Bay and the Arnprior are already just a few centimetres below 2017 levels.

“Unfortunately, we did receive a good bulk of that precipitation that was forecast, particularly in the northwestern sectors. I guess the portrait that I’m trying to portray is just that the upstream waters that we’re expecting are there and that means that they’re coming.”

Sarich said their predictions suggest some affected areas could see 40 more centimetres than in 2017.

Crews will be watching to see if the improved forecast will be a factor, but Sarich said there’s already a worrying amount of water upstream moving down.

The community of Fitzroy Harbour is facing rising flood waters and a possibility of even more as the melt continues to move down river. (Britta Gerwin)

“It’s a lot of water, a lot of water in the system,” he said.

Sarich said water levels in Pontiac, Que., will peak first, then the upper and lower areas of the Ottawa River on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Waiting for help

Ottawa is still under a state of emergency, prompting Mayor Jim Watson to call in the military earlier this week to help with sandbagging efforts.

With the worst still to come, Cumberland Ward Councilor Stephen Blais said it’s frustrating that many communities haven’t seen the troops yet.

“We were told all day yesterday we’d get [the] army and we got nothing. …They haven’t shown up yet,” he said.

“I’m beyond frustrated. I’m trying to be polite right now.”

Patrick Garbutt, who lives in Fitzroy Harbour, said the lack of help is taking a toll.

“We’re really in desperate need,” he said. “Morale is depleting.”

“The streets are no longer there.”

Homeowners and volunteers will be battling miserable conditions on Saturday — likely adding to the irritation.

Environment Canada calling for periods of rain mixed with snow on Saturday.

The wind is expected to be 30 km/h, gusting to 50 with the temperature falling to 2 C Saturday afternoon.The rain is expected to clear by Saturday evening and it will feel like -6 C with the wind chill overnight.

Evacuations in Pontiac​​​​​​

The City of Ottawa is asking people in West Carleton to prepared to leave their homes as water levels on the Ottawa River continue to rise.

On the Quebec side, Pontiac Mayor Joanne Labadie said they’re about two-thirds through evacuating affected homes in the municipality.

With no hotels available, people are being lodged at the Tim Horton’s camp in Quyon, Que, she said. 

“It means that our evacuees will be able to stay in the community and have a place that’s far more comfortable,” she said. 

The flooding has been blamed for one death in a Quebec community, about 50 kilometres west of Ottawa.

Last weekend a woman in her 70s was killed when she drove into a massive hole created after floodwaters washed out a road.​​​​​​

This story originally appeared on CBC

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