‘Ottawa’ Flood Updates: Water Levels Peak, Highways Partially Reopen but Gatineau Offices, Schools remain shut
Flood-stricken regions in Gatineau and low-lying areas of Ottawa were greeted with sunshine and a promise of relief Tuesday morning as flood experts confirmed levels on the historically high Ottawa River have reached a peak. Read bullet points below key rolling updates throughout the day.
The floods at a glance:
- The weather finally takes a turn for the better, with little precipitation in the forecast for the next five-six days
- Highway 174 in the east end is reopen, and Highway 50 in Quebec is partially reopen
- Federal office buildings in Gatineau will stay closed for a second straight day on Tuesday due to the flooding
- Four information sessions in Cumberland, Nepean, Fitzroy Harbour and Constance Bay will take place Tuesday and Wednesday
- Here’s how to volunteer with the flooding, and here’s how to take care of your own mental health
- Photos: The view from the sky of the massive Ottawa-Gatineau flood
- Gatineau residents warned about use of water pumps after man receives electric shock on flooded street
- So your house has been flooded? Here’s how to get assistance for it Here
The weather outlook continues to improve
There’s more hope for flooding victims as the weather forecast calls for little to no rain until at least Monday.
The forecast goes along with predictions from the Ottawa River Regulation Secretariat, which said late Monday the historically high water levels along the Ottawa River appear to have peaked and are now expected to slowly recede. Still, it may be weeks before those levels return to seasonal norms.
The secretariat said that peak water levels occurred Monday at the Hull Marina in Gatineau, as well as in Thurso, Que. and Hawkesbury, Ont.
Levels at Britannia in Ottawa reached their high point Sunday, the secretariat said.
What you need to know in Ottawa:
Hundreds of people on both sides of the Ottawa River abandoned their homes over the weekend as floodwaters continued to rise.
Emergency operations at Ottawa City Hall are preparing to shift into the recovery phase, now that it appears some water levels have hit their peaks.
“We know from past experiences this will be the most urgent need for our residents as the water starts receding,” city manager Steve Kanellakos said Monday during an update at city hall.
“It’s too early to tell how many homes will have been completely lost to the flooding. Our focus right now is on ensuring the safety of each and every family and resident in the hardest hit communities.”
People will be concerned for their health and safety, including mould that may start in people’s homes and the status of their drinking water and septic systems, Kanellakos said.
The city will also be ready to respond to concerns about air quality and debris that will need to be moved out of neighbourhoods. The city will be sending teams door-to-door to check on people, which includes offering mental health support services
“We will not leave this mode until the situation has been rectified and we’ve been able to deal with all issues,” Kanellakos said.
Isra Levy, the city’s medical officer of health, said residents on well water shouldn’t be drinking the water without it being tested.
Mayor Jim Watson said the city knows of 310 homes that have been directly impacted by the flooding and 75 families have been displaced.
There are 275 homes impacted in West Carleton, 25 in Cumberland and 10 in Bay ward.
At the end of Sunday, 400 tonnes of sand were deployed and 45,000 bags were filled in the eastern reaches of the city. In the rural west, there was 3,300 tonnes of sand and 120,000 bags filled. In Britannia, there was 600 tonnes of sand and 67,00 bags filled as of Sunday night.
The city still had 140,000 sand bags still in stock and it has been able to help Clarence-Rockland and Gatineau with their efforts, Kanellakos said.
The City of Ottawa has established command centres at each of the three primary flood locations in Cumberland, Constance Bay and Britannia.
Emergency services did 225 wellness checks over the weekend to make sure residents were safe. The fire department provided generators to some residents who are without electricity to keep pumps working.
The city has also deployed private security to Constance Bay and Cumberland, but there were no reports of criminal behaviour.
Watson said Premier Kathleen Wynne, who toured the flood zones in Cumberland Monday, has assured him that the province will make sure applications for provincial disaster relief are processed quickly so people have money in their hands to start rebuilding their lives.
Wynne stopped by the Ottawa Fire Services command post on Morin Road in Cumberland, joining Watson to speak to residents and survey damage from the flood firsthand.
“They’ve reached out for support. They’ve gotten support,” Wynne said. “I’m here because we want to make sure that people know we’re going to continue to work with the mayors … and the municipalities in order that people have the information they need to get the support they need. Because, once the water begins to subside, there’s going to be a lot of work to recover what the water has damaged.”
Watson had a message for residents affected by the flooding: “You’re not alone. The city and your neighbours are here to help.”
There will be four information sessions Tuesday and Wednesday in Cumberland, Nepean, Fitzroy Harbour and Constance Bay:
- Tuesday at 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the Nepean Sportsplex, Hall C and D.
- Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the R.J. Kennedy Arena in Cumberland, 1115 Dunning Rd.
- Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Fitzroy Harbour Community Association Community Centre, 100 Clifford Campbell St.
- Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Constance and Buckham’s Bay Community Centre, 262 Len Purcell Dr.
Watson repeated that the city doesn’t need to declare a state of emergency because Ottawa has the resources need to respond to the flooding.
The amalgamated city has never declared a state of emergency. The last state of emergency in the area was for the 1998 ice storm.
Watson said city staff believe the help of the Canadian Forces isn’t required, although the province is ready to call the feds anytime the city thinks it’s necessary.
What you need to know in the Outaouais:
The record high water levels will force the closure of federal office buildings in Gatineau for a straight second day on Tuesday, after offices were shuttered Monday, said the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.
The City of Gatineau announced Monday morning it would close most municipal buildings, including city hall, except the municipal court, service centres, libraries and sports centres.
The school board in Western Quebec was quick to release a statement on Monday, urging students to stay off area roadways.
“Considering the flood waters, after consultation with the civil and government authorities, the Western Quebec School Board has decided to close all Aylmer, Hull, Gatineau, Onslow, and Chelsea elementary, secondary schools, and academic and vocational training centres for adults,” reads the statement.
“Consequently, there will be no courses, no transportation and no daycare services.”
In Gatineau, 443 buildings were evacuated and 794 people have been displaced, including 763 people receiving help from the Red Cross, the city said Monday morning. Most of the buildings (411) were evacuated on the weekend, said Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin. Hydro-Québec has intentionally cut power to 243 homes as a matter of last resort, the mayor said.
The Hull and Gatineau hospitals both cancelled elective surgery, endoscopic procedures, some outpatient clinics and some other service for 24 hours because of the floods. Hospital officials said patients involved had been contacted directly.
In Gatineau, where a state of emergency has been declared, Canadian Forces personnel used their heavy vehicles to help police reach difficult to access areas.
Capt. James Fitzgerald said soldiers were focusing on three priority communities: Pontiac, the MRC of Pontiac, and Gatineau.
The Canadian Forces said in a statement that 1,200 troops would assist in flood-ravaged regions across Quebec, including Saint-Jean sur Richelieu, Shawinigan, Laval and Gatineau.
Within the MRC of Pontiac, numerous communities had evacuations underway, including Fort-Coulonge, Mansfield-et-Pontefract, Waltham, Isle-aux-Allumettes and Île-du-Grand-Calumet.
The only reported looting had been two reported thefts in the Hurtubise area of Gatineau, which police were still investigating.
The flood also brought out the good: hundreds of volunteers came out to assist with filling sandbags over the weekend in Gatineau, Cumberland, Constance Bay and Britannia.
The federal response:
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale defended the federal response to flood relief efforts in Ontario and Quebec on Monday, saying the Liberals sent troops and resources immediately after hearing provincial pleas for help.
Goodale said the federal government agreed to send military personnel to Quebec “within 30 seconds” of that province asking for help Friday and is now moving 250,000 sandbags into flooded communities around Ottawa after complaints about running out arose on Sunday night.
Goodale said the federal government couldn’t send in help on its own — local and provincial officials had to ask first.
That process of responding to a natural disaster will go under review when Goodale meets his provincial and territorial counterparts at the end of the month. Goodale said one jurisdiction or government cannot alone be responsible for responding to a natural disaster.