Over the next day or so, about 120 Canadian soldiers will be deployed across western New Brunswick to help residents threatened by rising floodwaters.
The soldiers from Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, a huge base in the southern part of the province, have been tasked with helping to fill sandbags, and if necessary, the evacuation of homes.
“We do have some vehicles that are a little more suitable to going through deep water,” Lt.-Col. Sean French, commander of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, told a briefing in Fredericton.
“We’re here to help. We’re here at the request of the provincial government.”
French said the soldiers, who are part of an immediate reaction unit, are also prepared to conduct “wellness checks” in various communities.
“If people would like to leave, then we can definitely help them,” he said.
Water levels in the Saint John River Basin are expected to rise significantly over the next few days, reaching or passing flood stage in several areas.
With heavy rain expected to continue through Saturday and overnight — particularly in northern New Brunswick — residents of 15 communities have been warned to remain on high alert.
Greg MacCallum, director of New Brunswick’s Emergency Measures Organization (EMO), said no major flooding was reported as of Saturday afternoon, but previous experience shows the rising waters are sure to lead to road closures in several areas, particularly in Fredericton and communities farther south.
“The time for preparedness is now,” MacCallum told the briefing. “If (residents) find themselves starting to get into difficult circumstances, they should be considering voluntarily evacuating their homes.”
The EMO is also monitoring other major rivers, including the Restigouche River, Middle River, and Tetagouche River, where ice jams and rising water levels could lead to localized flooding.
“Residents intending to relocate from their residences should be finalizing arrangements,” the EMO said in a statement. “Flood waters may rise quickly limiting access and making evacuation more difficult by increasing risks to those involved.”