Ontario cottage country prepares for more rain amid flooding
Jackie Dunham and Ben Cousins, CTVNews.ca Staff, with files from CTV Toronto, CTV Barrie, and The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, April 25, 2019 7:35AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, April 25, 2019 4:42PM EDT
With more rain in the forecast, several communities in Ontario’s cottage country are scrambling to prepare for even more flooding after a couple of towns declared states of emergencies and residents were asked to leave their homes.
On Tuesday, the Town of Bracebridge, located a two-hour drive north of Toronto, declared an emergency after days of rain and spring snow melt caused the Muskoka River and other rivers and lakes to swell and flood low-lying regions.
Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith said emergency officials used boats to travel from door-to-door to assist evacuees in those regions.
“A number of the people that are displaced from their homes, they’re staying with friends or other relatives in the community,” he told CTV’s Your Morning early Thursday. “We would make sure that if someone didn’t have a place to go, we would treat them like family and get them a place to stay."
Within Smith’s jurisdiction, number of roads have been washed out and residents in the hard-hit areas of Springdale Shores, Holiday Park Drive, and Cedar Shores were asked to evacuate on Wednesday.
Power was shut off in the Springdale Shores area on Thursday in advance of the coming storm. Electricity is not scheduled to be restored to the region until May 2.
Resident Philip Roblee has been canoeing in to check on his home, where the flood waters are a mere 15 centimetres away from seeping into his basement.
“For the last week, the water’s just been slowly rising up and basically we’re flooded out of our home,” he told CTV Toronto on Wednesday.
Roblee said he was shocked by the spring flooding this year. He said he’s had difficulty finding insurance for his home so he’s worried what will happen if the water reaches his basement.
“If the water gets in, I lose everything,” he said.
On Thursday morning, Smith said water levels in many areas of the region had already exceeded those seen in 2013 when the area experienced its worst flooding in more than a century. The mayor said water levels upstream to the north in Huntsville have peaked so he’s hoping the town will see some relief in the coming days.
“We’re hopeful that the rise of the river has slowed down a little bit today,” he said.
But not before the area receives another soaking with total rainfall amounts of 25 to 40 millimetres expected by late Friday night, according to an Environment Canada alert issued Thursday morning. Local amounts could exceed 50 millimetres, the special weather statement said.
OTHER COMMUNITIES AT RISK
The Environment Canada special weather statement also includes the areas of Gravenhurst, Huntsville, Baysville, Port Carling, Port Severn, Town of Parry Sound, Rosseau, and Killbear Park.
Not far from Bracebridge, the Township of Minden Hills declared a flooding emergency on Wednesday. In a press release, officials said an overflow of water on Horseshoe Lake through the Gull River is continuing to rise, which is putting residents and properties at risk.
The town has already closed a number of roads due to flooding concerns and has advised caution to motorists. Sandbags have been made available to residents living in at-risk areas.
Dozens of other areas in Ontario’s cottage country are currently under flood warnings or watches.
The town of Huntsville declared a state of emergency on Thursday in advance of the coming rainfall. Officials say lakes in the area are rising and roads are being washed out around Lake Mary.
Residents are being asked to follow Huntsville’s social media channels for up-to-date information on road closures.
In Gravenhurst, town officials said the situation is stable, but that sandbags are available to residents in low-lying areas whose properties may be threatened by floodwaters.
In Ramara Township, water levels in the Black River have risen rose 125 millimetres since Wednesday, but is starting to recede.
The good news hasn’t stopped locals in the area from preparing for the worst. Some students at K.P. Manson Public School took a break from classes to fill some 300 sandbags for community use.
“If people need sandbags to stop water from coming up closer to their house then they can go them,” said student Nathan Huffman.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry issued a flood warning earlier this week for District Municipality of Muskoka, the Territorial District of Parry Sound and a northwest portion of the County of Haliburton. The warning is to remain in effect until Wednesday, May 1.
On Wednesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford toured the Bracebridge and surrounding regions. The premier, whose family owns a cottage in Muskoka, pledged to provide support to the affected communities. Earlier this month, however, Ford’s government cut funding in half for flood management programs run by conservation authorities.