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Communities across Eastern Canada, including Montreal and Ottawa, have shifted to recovery mode after rivers and lakes overflowed their banks starting in mid-April

  • Residents Lawrence Courville (left) and Andie Goulet carry out belongings down a flooded street in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, Que., Sunday, April 28, 2019.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

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The latest

  • In Quebec, the official numbers provided by public security officials remained largely the same Friday as they were Wednesday, with more than 7,000 homes reported flooded, 4,000 properties isolated, and some 10,000 unable to return home due to flooding across the province.
  • In the nation’s capital, federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said he didn’t expect a second wave of flooding for Ottawa and Gatineau. It’s the second bout of major spring flooding in three years in the area, and in 2017 the worst damage was caused by a second round of floods.
  • Meanwhile, the Canadian Red Cross will disperse $600 in emergency funds to affected homeowners to pay for food, essential supplies, clothing, or a temporary place to stay, at a cost of between $4-million and $6-million. Mr. Goodale announced a grant to provide $2.5-million of that amount.
  • The town of Bracebridge, Ont., in the heart of the province’s cottage country, said water levels in the Muskoka River are receding, but are still higher than normal.
  • Health and safety inspection teams fanned out across flood-affected regions of New Brunswick Friday, assessing homes and businesses that are still drying out amid receding floodwaters.

Satellite imagery

The Globe and Mail obtained recent satellite images of extensively flooded neighbourhoods in and around Greater Montreal.

A neighbourhood in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, dry in September 2017 and flooded on April 30 after a dike burst. Satellite image ©2019 Maxar Technologies

More photographs: Before and after images show the scale of devastation in flooded parts of Quebec


On the ground

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Residents wade down a flooded street in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, Que., on Sunday.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

In Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, northwest of Montreal, some of the 6,000 residents ordered to leave after a dike broke on Saturday returned to houses filled with mud-covered detritus and plates of food abandoned during rushed evacuations.

In all, more than 10,000 people remained out of their homes in Quebec on Wednesday, and 7,000 residences were flooded.

Water levels in the corridor along the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers between Montreal and the boundary with Ontario threatened residents all week, but appear to have stabilized for the time being.

In Grenville-sur-la-Rouge, Que., about halfway between Montreal and Ottawa, residents were allowed to return home after Hydro-Quebec confirmed the structural integrity of a dam.

An overview of April’s weather helps explain how spring spawned a flooding disaster for several communities from Ottawa to Montreal.

A snowy winter with below-average temperatures meant about twice the normal average amount of snow was still on the ground in mid-April, according to Environment Canada meteorologist André Cantin.

Then, temperatures began to warm, remaining above freezing day and night.

Finally, rain was falling every two or three days by mid-month. Montreal alone had 128 mm in April, while it usually gets 82 mm.

“We had ideal conditions for a catastrophe,” Mr. Cantin said.

Political response

Last Sunday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadians must talk about how and where to rebuild after floods, and he did not close the door on using federal dollars to help relocate communities facing the recurring threat of severe flooding.

“Once we secure the situation through this spring flooding season, we will have to have significant reflections and conversations on how we move forward,” he said at a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Quebec Premier François Legault has said the government will offer homeowners $200,000 to abandon homes that flood year after year, after capping flood relief compensation at $100,000 starting this year.

New Brunswick

On the ground

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Houses and roads are seen flooded as the Saint John River overflows its banks in the area surrounding Fredericton, New Brunswick on April 22, 2019.Ken Galbraith/DND/Reuters

Communities from Fredericton to Saint John were flooded in the second half of April, forcing nearly 1,000 people to evacuate their homes and more than 400 to stay in temporary hotel accommodations provided by the Canadian Red Cross.

Officials said about 70 per cent of the roughly 940 people seeking help from the Red Cross this year also registered for assistance a year ago.

Among 84 closed roads across the province was a stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway between Oromocto and River Glade. Everyone from community volunteers to federal officials and Canadian Armed Forces pitched in to help – even federal fisheries officers were aiding evacuation efforts in Fredericton, Quispamsis and St. George.

“Minor seasonal flooding has always been a way of life in New Brunswick’s southern riverside communities,” The Globe and Mail’s Atlantic bureau chief Jessica Leeder writes. “But when this year’s flood levels began contending with the highs seen in 2018 – a flood billed then as historically destructive – many began wondering how many more years like this they can endure.”

Political response

The province rolled out a disaster financial assistance program Friday, announcing that affected property owners could receive a maximum of $160,000 for structural repairs to private residences, and up to $500,000 for small businesses and non-profit organizations.

The program is not available for those with damaged cottages and recreational properties.

“Together, we made major efforts to plan for, prepare for and respond to the flood,” said Public Safety Minister Carl Urquhart. “Residents, volunteers, first responders and the military worked to protect lives and property. Despite that work there was damage.”

Mr. Urquhart said the province was committed to coming up with a better long-term plan to deal with the impact of spring flooding.

Premier Blaine Higgs told reporters during a tour of affected areas 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.

'Last year was supposed to be once in a lifetime’: Quebec and New Brunswick brace for new reality of perennial floods


On the ground

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Dam in downtown Bracebridge, Ont., can't hold back the swollen waters of the Muskoka River on April 28, 2019.Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press

Open this photo in gallery:

The Muskoka River overflows its banks at the High Falls Generating station in Bracebridge, Ont. on April 25, 2019.J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

Along with Quebec, Ontario welcomed the help of 2,300 Canadian Forces troops in the past week: filling sandbags, building barriers, checking on waterlogged homes and evacuating residents. That compared to 2,200 deployed outside the country.

Many roads in the Bracebridge area, in Ontario’s cottage country, were washed out by floodwaters as two nearby lakes had water levels that exceed those last seen during serious flooding in 2013.

Kashechewan First Nation has been evacuated, as its more than 2,500 members have been flown to other locations across the province and its leaders continue to call for a permanent relocation.

Political response

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he believes climate change is among the reasons Ontario homeowners are being forced to deal with flooding for the second time in three years.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has activated a disaster recovery assistance program to the Ontario communities of Renfrew County, Pembrooke, Bracebridge and Huntsville.

The program applies to primary residences (though not cottages) and their basic contents, as well as to small businesses, farms and not-for-profit organizations.

The long view

  • Believing that climate change is the lone issue at play means that we risk missing a major part of the story – and the solution, argues Les Stanfield.
  • When it comes to facing the risks of large-scale disasters, Wency Leung reports, many people have a hard time envisioning – let alone preparing for – worst-case scenarios.
  • If floods and forest fires and other calamities can forge a political consensus on the need to combat climate change, then that’s progress, writes John Ibbitson.
  • There are more floods than ever before, and yet our behaviour toward them in the 21st century is just as irrational as that of our pagan ancestors, who considered them a punishment from a vengeful God, wrote Ian Brown in the aftermath of the floods Hurricane Harvey unleashed on Houston in 2017.
  • The discourse of flood recovery has to turn to getting those in the immediate flood plain permanently out of harm’s way, writes Glenn McGillivray, managing director of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss and Reduction. He is advocating for governments to buy out landowners located on floodplains.
  • Inadequacies in the mapping of coastal areas are hindering Canadians’ efforts to protect themselves from flood disaster, The Globe’s Matthew McClearn learns.
  • Engineers and the scientific community need to move more swiftly to design infrastructure that accounts for climate change science, according to one expert.

Compiled by Globe Staff

The Canadian Press, with reports from Jessica Leeder, Les Perreaux, Ingrid Peritz and Matthew McClearn.

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