Rising floodwaters across New Brunswick, which have caused evacuations, property damage and the closing of a large section of the Trans-Canada highway between Moncton and Fredericton, have become so strong that even the powerful tides of the Bay of Fundy aren’t able to beat them back.
With waters already at record levels in Saint John and projected to rise further this week, the province is calling in the Canadian Coast Guard as it grapples with the worst spring floods in decades. The flooding, which began earlier this week, has forced residents to evacuate parts of the Saint John region. Along with the Trans-Canada highway, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Bill Fraser said about 80 roads and bridges in the province have been closed to traffic, while dozens of other roadways and ramps are partly closed.
Premier Brian Gallant told a news briefing in Fredericton on Thursday afternoon that the province is “seeing weather events like we have never seen before.” Parts of that city’s downtown have been underwater for days.
“This is most likely going to end up being the largest, most impactful flood that we have ever recorded here in New Brunswick, so it certainly puts … all of our resources and people to the test,” he said.
Geoffrey Downey of the Emergency Measures Organization said Friday that the Saint John river has hit 5.5 metres above sea level in Saint John − water levels not seen since 1973 − and will likely exceed that on Saturday when forecasts say it could reach 5.9 metres.
The problem has been exacerbated − and the water level forecast has risen − due to heavy rains overnight Thursday into Friday, which has also added to the misery of those placing sand bags around their homes in an effort to hold floodwaters at bay.
“The problem is we’re venturing into uncharted territory,” he said on Thursday. “Who knows how far it’s going to go up, so how many homes is it now going to reach?”
Mr. Downey said roughly 100 homes have been evacuated thus far, affecting about 260 people.
Along the Saint John River, tourists expecting to see the famous Reversing Falls, caused by high tides from the Bay of Fundy, have been finding that the river is flowing only a bit slower than usual. Typically, water rushing in from the Bay of Fundy during high tide meets the water from the river and pushes it back up, creating the Reversing Falls effect. Tourists have also been seeing stronger whirlpools than usual at low tide, a lesser-known phenomenon.
Nicole Gray, tourism services manager with Skywalk, a local attraction with an observation area that provides spectacular views from on high, said one visitor earlier this week was so captivated that he stayed for three hours.
“[The whirlpools are] really beautiful. I wanted to make a nice Facebook post about it,” Ms. Gray said, “but then I have to remember that so many people are affected by this flood and they’re losing their homes and have to evacuate. As beautiful as it looks from 100 feet above, it’s not so beautiful for those people.”
Emergency management officials in Saint John are recommending that anyone in low-lying areas along the Saint John River “evacuate their homes immediately with their pets and seek accommodation with family or friends,” the municipality said in a statement.
Ms. Gray and others at Skywalk have been seeing remnants of damaged property flowing down the river. So far, she’s seen a door, someone’s deck, a huge tree and what looked like a chair. With the threat of more rain on the way through the weekend, she expects they’ll see more.
The Trans-Canada Highway connecting Fredericton and Moncton is closed to traffic because flood waters have crossed the four-lane highway in the Jemseg area.
Jean-Marc Picard, executive director of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, says the closure will force a lot of trucks onto alternative roads.
Mr. Picard is asking motorists to be alert and patient.
He says the detour is adding fuel costs and an hour or more to trip times.
With reports from The Canadian Press