‘More water coming:’ Fears persist as Ottawa River expected to rise this weekend

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‘More water coming:’ Fears persist as Ottawa River expected to rise this weekend

by - 3 min read

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A heavy rainfall warning for the Ottawa-Gatineau area has ended, but officials are warning many homes along the Ottawa River are still at risk of rising water levels.

Environment Canada issued a statement late Friday night saying significant rainfall is no longer expected for the region.

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 area in the 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 received 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 area of the Ottawa River early next week.

Cold temperatures

Homeowners and volunteers will be battling miserable conditions on Saturday, with Environment Canada calling for periods of rain mixed with snow.

The wind is expected to be 30 km/h, gusting to 50 with the temperature falling to 2 C Saturday afternoon, according to Environment Canada.

The rain is expected to clear by Saturday evening and it will feel like -6 C with the wind chill overnight.

Morale is depleting.– Patrick Garbutt, Fitzroy Harbour resident

The city is still under a state of emergency, prompting Mayor Jim Watson to call in the military earlier this week to help with sandbagging and other efforts in areas like Constance Bay.

Patrick Garbutt, who lives in Fitzroy Harbour, said the long days are taking a toll.

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

“The streets are no longer there.”

People living in some flood-threatened neighbourhoods are still being asked to prepare to evacuate as water levels on the Ottawa River continue to rise.

The City of Ottawa is asking for people in West Carleton to be ready for a sudden surge this weekend.

The Ottawa River could rise 50 centimetres above peak levels seen during the devastating flooding of May 2017.

Some areas could see record-high water levels by the middle of next week, according to the latest forecast from the Ottawa River Regulation Planning Board (ORRPB), which controls reservoir levels along the length of the river basin. 

However, the prediction, issued Friday morning, is “subject to a high degree of uncertainty,” according to the board, which keeps records dating back to 1950.

Evacuations in Pontiac​​​​​​

On the Quebec side, Pontiac Mayor Joanne Labadie said they’re about two-thirds the way through evacuating residents 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 that 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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