‘Not over yet’: N.B. floodwaters were dropping, but now forecast is wind and rain

by - 4 min read

‘Not over yet’: N.B. floodwaters were dropping, but now forecast is wind and rain

by - 4 min read

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Up to 25 millimetres of rain is expected in southern parts of New Brunswick today, which could cause waters that have receded in some communities along the St. John River to rise again in the coming days.

Even where flood levels stabilize, there is a risk of winds which could drive waters over roads and into homes. 

The most recent five-day forecast from River Watch says levels in Fredericton could drop to 7.1 metres by Monday, and to five metres in the Saint John area.

River levels are still expected to remain above flood stage for some time, even as they begin to drop.

“It will be a number of days before we are below flood stage,” said provincial EMO director Greg MacCallum.

Crews and members of the Canadian Forces are still out assisting residents with sandbags, conducting wellness checks and evacuations. EMO spokesperson Geoffrey Downey said about 400 soldiers are currently deployed across New Brunswick.

Residents are also warned to avoid contact with floodwaters as it could be contaminated with sewage or other chemicals in some cases.

What the 2019 New Brunsiwck flood looked like on Friday:

This is how the 2019 New Brunswick flood looks on Friday in Grand Lake and along the St. John and Kennebecaisis Rivers. 1:01

Water levels in Fredericton were at 7.25 metres this morning and dropped overnight in Saint John to below 5.5 metres.

Downey said EMO is watching closely to see how today’s rain affects the river.

“It started raining yesterday and they were expecting up to 45 millimetres in some parts of the province. The latest forecast, though, is calling for relatively stable [levels], where it actually had been dropping for the last 24 hours or so.”

Winds of up to 60 km/h were in the forecast for some parts of the province and could cause more damage, even if water levels are receding or stabilizing, Downey said.

“Last year we certainly ran into issues where people who didn’t have water in their homes did after waves picked up and started smashing windows and things like that.”

Watch this explainer on how a New Brunswick spring flood typically begins:

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

The Trans-Canada highway is still closed from Exit 306 (Oromocto) to Exit 423 (River Glade).

Ahmed Dassouki, director of operations with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, said 144 roads have been affected during this year’s flood, with 83 still closed. This is fewer than last year, when 160 roads were closed or otherwise impacted, he said.

Dassouki said the department does not know when the Trans-Canada highway may be reopened.

“At this stage we need the water to recede more before any determination on what time [it will be reopened] can be made.”

Search on Grand Lake

Search and rescue teams were deployed later Friday night on Grand Lake near Waterborough after three distress-signal flares were seen in the area.

The search was called off in the evening due to weather conditions, but resumed this morning. No evidence of distressed boats or people was found and there have been no reports of missing people. EMO is continuing to monitor the situation.

“We have no clear indication that anybody was in distress. People could be using flares for any number of reasons,” said MacCallum.

Over 1,000 registered with Red Cross

Bill Lawlor, provincial director of the Canadian Red Cross, said the number of evacuees registered has grown to 1052 individuals.

This is still lower than last year’s peak of registrations of 2,517 people, but Lawlor said the Red Cross is expecting to see another spike in registrations over the weekend because of the rain.

“We’re cautious with the numbers only because we know this is not over yet,” Lawlor said.

About 65 per cent of evacuees registered this year also registered during the 2018 flood.

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

The majority of evacuees are from Fredericton and communities just downriver, but the Red Cross said it is seeing increased registrations from Saint John and surrounding areas.

Many evacuees are those who had to leave their homes during last year’s flood.

“We’re seeing quite an impact emotionally on those who are evacuating, particularly those who are doing this again two years in a row. It’s an extraordinarily stressful time for those households.”

Still, Lawlor said the Red Cross has been surprised by how many evacuees have made their own accommodation arrangements. He said about 60 per cent of those registered had their own plan, while 40 per cent were placed in emergency accommodation like hotels and motels. So far the Red Cross hasn’t had any overnight guests in its shelters in Fredericton and Saint John.

Prepare for a week or more

Lawlor recommends that those who are leaving their homes prepare for an absence longer than 72 hours.

“Think for the long haul,” he said.

Here’s what should be in a 72-hour preparedness kit:

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

While it’s impossible to know in advance, he said it could potentially be weeks before some people are given the all clear by public authorities to re-enter their homes, depending on damage to property and access roads.

Lawlor said people should to bring things like prescription medications, important documents and anything else they may need if they are out of their homes for a week or more.

He also said securing windows and doors and any loose objects outside of the home is a good idea, as well as elevating anything in basements above last year’s watermark, if possible.

This story originally appeared on CBC

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