Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Volunteers sandbag homes in Southern Ontario, in preparation for flooding

Volunteers Tim Horst, Jake Wall and Bruce Brubacher arrive with sandbags for Ann Colebourne's house in Foxboro, Ont., on April 12.


Agnes Williams has lived by the banks of the Moira River in Foxboro, Ont., for more than 57 years, but she'd never been forced out of her home by rising flood waters before.

On Sunday morning, Ms. Williams, 78, kept a wary eye out the window as neighbours sandbagged their homes and checked on water levels under the nearby bridge that connects them to the city of Belleville. The water was supposed to have steadied overnight but it was still rising, Ms. Williams said, and if the bridge washed out she'd be in trouble. She's a diabetic who can make the 50-foot walk to her mailbox but not much more, she said. She decided to get out. Her daughter was on her way to rescue her that minute, she said.

"I never was worried before but then I've never seen my neighbour sandbag before," Ms. Williams said.

Story continues below advertisement

The Moira River, tame 11 months of the year and in some places mild enough to cross on foot, was now being referred to as the "Mighty Moira," she said.

Water levels on Sunday surpassed those seen here in the flood of 2008, according to Belleville Fire Chief Mark MacDonald. He said they'd only been forced to evacuate three homes and a total of six people so far. More than 70 homes were sandbagged, thanks to the help of nearly 500 local volunteers.

"We were able to bag the homes before the waters came up, and the good news is that we've got the walls at a good height and that for the flood modelling they're talking about, they expect the waters to crest over the next 24 hours, it should only rise another two to four inches," Mr. MacDonald said.

Conditions remain treacherous, though, Mr. MacDonald said.

"That's some swift moving, dangerous water," he said. "It's cold, only about 5 degrees Celsius, and moving at several metres per second. ...You'd be in extreme trouble if you fell into that water right now."

The threat that flooding will worsen abated somewhat over the weekend, according to Quinte Conservation, the body that monitors the watershed and handles flood modelling. This is still considered significant enough that it's a one-in-10-years flood, according to Quinte Conservation spokeswoman Jennifer May-Anderson.

"We didn't get a significant amount of rain overnight so conditions didn't change greatly," she said. "The Quinte area is not currently under a rainfall warning but we are keeping an eye on the forecast."

Story continues below advertisement

The city of Belleville has been under a state of emergency since Thursday. The wider area is under a flood warning. The flooding is caused by snow and ice melt upstream, and although heavy rain is forecast for Ontario in coming days, Ms. May-Anderson said it's not expected to land in areas that would have a major impact on water levels. "The Moira River is still rising. We think that if things go as they're going now it could rise up to five cm in total over the next two days. Rain would change that but right now it doesn't look like there's that amount of rain in the forecast for us," Ms. May-Anderson said.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct Licensing Options
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this resolved by the end of January 2018. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to