N.B. flood levels reach highest in decades, expected to grow
The Saint John River has hit levels not seen in 45 years, but officials worry the worst of the flooding might be still to come.
The water levels along the river are expected to continue their rise through Monday. The area could be hit with up to 30 millimetres of additional rain over the weekend, according to Environment Canada.
In Saint John, water levels reached more than a metre above flood stage for the region on Friday and are expected to climb by 0.5 metres by Monday. Water levels reached 1.5 metres above flood stage in the Fredericton-area.
More than 80 roads in the province have been shut down, including a 200-kilometre stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway between Fredericton and Moncton. Officials have no timetable for reopening the highway.
The Canadian Red Cross says 747 people have told the organization to say they’ve evacuated their homes and plenty others have evacuated, but not registered.
In Saint John, emergency personnel are having a tough time getting residents to leave their homes as residents would prefer to fight the flood than flee.
“We’re not getting as much uptake as we’d like to see, but we think what’s going to happen over Friday, Saturday and Sunday is that people will find themselves in situations that they haven’t been before,” said Chief Kevin Clifford with the Saint John Fire Department.
Many residents are piling sandbags outside their homes to keep the water from seeping in. Zac Kurylyk has taken a different strategy by running a pump around the clock to shoot the water back off his property.
“If I can keep on pumping, I’m going to stay until I can’t do anything else,” he told CTV Atlantic.
As residents continue to wade through the flood waters, concerns are being raised about potential contaminates in the water as the flood picks up on-land debris.
“It’s safe to say given the number of septic fields affected, sewer backups, sewage lagoons back floated, that there’s probably a great deal of contamination within the water,” said Graeme Stewart-Robertson, executive director of the Atlantic Coastal Action Program Saint John.
Workers have also been trying to stop propane tanks from floating away. Meanwhile, restoration crews are left playing the waiting game as many are unable to begin the cleanup process until the water recedes.
People with boats have been offering rides to those needing to cross the water, but many people are still walking through it as a necessity. Those who come in contact with the water are being asked to wash their hands thoroughly.
“We don’t want people to be exposed to this kind of water, but if you’ve got people that are going to be wading through the water, clearly they need to take protective actions,” said Greg MacCallum, director of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization.
A bit of flooding as part of the spring thaw has become a part of the new normal for many New Brunswickers, but they’re hoping this year is the outlier and not the start of a trend.
“We have come to expect it to some degree, every year,” said Deborah Thompson, a resident of the area. “This is as bad as it’s ever been. I don’t know if it’s going to continue to get worse.”
With a report from CTV Atlantic’s Mary Cranston, Mike Cameron and Jonathan MacInnis and files from The Canadian Press