Political and disaster-relief leaders were grimly recognizing the new normal of recurring New Brunswick flooding Friday as growing numbers of people registered for help with the Canadian Red Cross.
Premier Blaine Higgs told reporters that with two floods in as many years, it’s clear climate change is changing flooding frequency, and his new Tory government will take this into account in future planning.
“A one-in-100-year event is now down to one-in-50 years if you use the averaging and it’ll likely just continue,” said the premier, a prominent opponent of the federal carbon tax.
“Longer term solutions have got to be the plan ... through climate change and reduced emissions and through actual changes to our building patterns and where we’re building on the river.”
Higgs was with Gov.-Gen. Julie Payette, who was in the province visiting response centres. She also noted that flooding would likely continue in years to come.
“Things aren’t going to change. There will be other flooding in the future. But there are ways to prevent that and make sure the population is safe,” she said.
The Canadian Red Cross says most New Brunswickers seeking emergency aid from debilitating floods went through similar devastation last spring.
Provincial director Bill Lawlor says about 70 per cent of the roughly 940 people seeking help from his agency this year also registered for assistance a year ago.
He called that a “significant number” during a Friday briefing on the province’s continuing flood conditions, as officials warned that rainfall of up to 45 millimetres could be on the way.
The Saint John River remained above flood levels in southern New Brunswick, while waters slightly subsided in Fredericton.
Lawlor says registrations with the agency had reached 372 households by Friday afternoon and were climbing steadily, as his agency officially launched its financial appeal to help victims.
A whiteboard at the local Red Cross headquarters notes that while it’s Day 9 of response to this year’s disaster, the agency just reached the one-year mark in ongoing assistance to families still recovering from last spring’s floods.
“Over the last several weeks and months there are a number of residents who have just returned to their primary residence as a result of time it took for rebuilding and repairing,” said Lawlor.
“To have been faced with such a significant event in such a short period of time certainly will have a significant impact on those households.”
The New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization called on residents to remain “vigilant,” and to pay close attention to the impact of the rainfall.
Meanwhile, key transportation links were closed, forcing detours and slowing the flow of commerce and travel around the province.
The Trans-Canada Highway was fully closed from Oromocto to River Glade and could remain closed for several days, as the transportation department reported 84 road closures across the province.
The RCMP has asked motorists to be patient and not take risks as the province copes with increased traffic and delays due to flooding.
Police said they’re concerned about the growing numbers of incidents during the disaster.
“Since the detour started, police officers have already witnessed a near head-on collision when a tractor trailer truck crossed the centre line and aggressive driving including speeding and numerous complaints of motorists passing on solid lines,” said a news release.
“Two motorists were stopped doing approximately 60 kilometres per hour above the posted speed limit.”