People living along the Saint John River in western New Brunswick are bracing for flooding this weekend as provincial emergency officials are predicting road closures and potential property damage.
“People living near rivers and waterways are advised to remain on alert over the coming days as water levels will be near or above flood stage in many regions,” the province’s Emergency Measures Organization (EMO) said in a statement Friday.
Residents of 14 communities should be on “high alert,” the statement said.
The communities facing the biggest flooding threat include Fredericton, Saint John, Edmundston, Maugerville, Jemseg and Grand Lake.
“Water levels are forecast to increase in the days ahead,” said EMO director Greg MacCallum. “People in these areas who have experienced flooding in the past should expect to experience similar or worse conditions and are advised to know the risks, take preventative measures and to consider voluntary evacuation if necessary.”
Environment Canada has issued rainfall warnings for northern and western New Brunswick, where the ground remains frozen and won’t absorb much rainfall.
The rain is expected to continue throughout the weekend as a series of low-pressure systems moves through the region. Total rainfall is expected to reach between 50 and 80 millimetres, with the possibility of more than 100 mm over portions of the northwestern New Brunswick.
MacCallum said the EMO is has been in contact with the federal government to secure assistance, including military support, if required.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said in a statement that federal assistance would be provided to residents if needed, such as support from the Canadian Armed Forces.
“The Government of Canada, through the Government Operations Centre, continues to monitor and assess the national flooding situation carefully as it continues to evolve,” said Goodale’s statement.
EMO said a gradual snow melt in the province’s northwest is expected to accelerate rapidly as temperatures rise.
Some residents are still making repairs to property damaged during historic flooding last year.
The provincial government said sand and sandbags are available at locations across the province.
“Drivers are advised to avoid any roads covered by water, as it represents a serious safety risk,” EMO warned. “Water may be deeper than it appears and may conceal sinkholes or other damage and debris.”
As well, drivers are being warned to watch for wildlife seeking higher ground.
Those living near waterways prone to flooding are being encouraged to move belongings to higher ground, avoid boating and walking along the banks of waterways as currents are strong and may carry debris.
A recent federal report on climate change predicts Atlantic Canada will experience a 12 per cent increase in annual precipitation over the next century, and a 30 per cent increase in one-in-10 year storms that produce large downpours — unless carbon emissions are reduced.
Fredericton’s highest flood was in 1973, but the second highest was in 2008, and the third highest was 2018.
Last year, a rapid melt and two late snowstorms resulted in major flooding along the Saint John River and its tributaries.
About 12,000 properties were affected by widespread flooding between late April and mid-May last year, with dozens of homes and cottages left beyond repair.