Ice jams keep N.B. evacuees out of homes
Published Saturday, March 24, 2012 10:27PM EDT
Water levels were dropping Saturday along New Brunswick's St. John River, but not enough to permit hundreds of evacuees to return to their homes.
About 500 people in the village of Perth-Andover were ordered to leave for higher ground Friday morning after the river spilled its banks, flooding streets and basements.
Another 20 people, patients at the local hospital, had to be moved after floodwaters surrounded the facility.
The province's Emergency Measures Organization said another 50 or so people were forced from their homes overnight on the nearby Tobique First Nation as a precaution, though there was no flooding reported.
Meanwhile, downriver in Fredericton, residents are being warned to remain vigilant, as the river has gone above the flood level.
Provincial officials say unseasonably warm temperatures caused ice jams along the St. John River, which led to the flooding. No injuries have been reported.
"Everybody is safe," Lisa Harrity, a spokeswoman for EMO, said Saturday. "The water is starting to decline in the region, very slowly at this point. There is an ice jam still in place."
The provincial organization said water levels in Perth-Andover were still above flood stage Saturday and a local state of emergency declared Friday remained in effect.
Harrity said it's too early to say when the order would be lifted as streets were still flooded.
"We obviously want to get people back into their homes as quickly as possible," she said.
Harrity said inspectors were on standby to assess homes for damage as soon as it was safe to do so. In the meantime, the Red Cross had set up two centres for evacuees in the village.
Earlier, she told CTV News Channel that officials expect water levels to drop within the next 24 hours.
"We're hoping that within the next day or two it (water levels) will be able to get down to the level where we'll be able to have inspections," she said.
Mayor Rick Beaulieu told CTV News Saturday that water levels are still too high to assess the damage.
Many residents said it's the worst flooding the region has seen in more than a quarter century.
Harrity said the ice jams typically break up fairly quickly. It's not usual for portions of the St. John River watershed to flood, but unseasonable warm weather this year has moved it ahead.
Monitoring of water levels began March 12, but flooding typically isn't a problem until early or mid-April, Harrity said.
"It varies from year to year but anybody living along the river system is very familiar with the risks of floods every year," she said.
With files from The Canadian Press and a report from CTV Atlantic's Nick Moore