April 30, 2008

St. John River expected to exceed historic flood levels

Increasingly, roads near Fredericton are being closed as waters continue to rise.

Increasingly, roads near Fredericton are being closed as waters continue to rise. (Submitted by James Whitehead)The water levels of the St. John River are now expected to reach or exceed the 1973 levels in Fredericton and Maugerville in the next 24 hours, New Brunswick's Emergency Measures Organization said on Wednesday.

Those levels are also expected to be reached in more southern areas as the crest moves down river.

The St. John River reached 8.6 metres in 1973.

EMO issued an alert to New Brunswickers on Wednesday afternoon that the river levels have reached a point requiring a "major flood warning to all areas along the St. John River."

The heavy rain fall has ended over the St. John River basin, but western parts of the province have received more than 100 millimetres of rain since Monday.

The water flows in the St. John River are increasing throughout the basin, with the greatest increase in the northern and middle portions.

Rain in northwestern Maine and southern Quebec, however, will flow downstream and raise the St. John River within the next 24 hours.

"That water is already on its way," said Andy Morton, deputy director of EMO. "We know the water level is going to come up substantially. For people in flood-prone areas, if they were flooded in 2005, they're going to be flooded again and maybe even in a larger area."

People living on the northern part of the river basin from Saint-Fran├žois to Woodstock are also being affected by the flooding, Morton said. Approximately 20 families have been evacuated from Edmundston.

Roads across New Brunswick were being engulfed by water on Wednesday as rivers surged with rain and snow melt.

Roads in Bathurst, Miramichi, Saint John, Edmundston and Fredericton were under the flood waters that were funnelling into the province's rivers from southern Quebec and northwestern Maine.

Parts of the Trans-Canada Highway, including highway exits, are closed in the Sheffield, Edmundston and Saint-Jacques areas.

Flooding in New Brunswick is of grave concern, but all levels of government and emergency organizations are working well together and there is not yet a need to declare a state of emergency, said Public Safety Minister John Foran.

In the Fredericton area, sections of Route 105 are flooded and closed. Tripp Settlement Road, Rusagonis Road, Bass River Point Road and parts of Route 690 are also closed. The Gagetown ferry has stopped running because of the high waters.

Not a state of emergency: minister

Foran held a press conference in Fredericton on Wednesday to update New Brunswickers on the rising waters of the St. John River, which have reached 7.2 metres in the capital city.

A resident of Maugerville, N.B., tries to deal with some of the rising water around his property. Flooding could approach record levels, officials say.

A resident of Maugerville, N.B., tries to deal with some of the rising water around his property. Flooding could approach record levels, officials say.
(Submitted by Jacquie Anderson)

In neighbouring Maine, Gov. John Baldacci declared a state of emergency for Aroostook County on Tuesday night. Flood waters caused by melting snow and heavy rain have prompted the evacuation of 40 homes in the Fort Kent and Wallagrass area of the state.

Foran said New Brunswick is monitoring the flooding in Maine and Quebec carefully and will adjust the province's emergency response level as the waters continue to rise.

Alberta and Nova Scotia are prepared to send in help to the province, Foran said. The Canadian military is also on standby should there be a need for heavy vehicles or additional emergency support, he said.

Foran again urged New Brunswickers to heed the warnings of the province's EMO.

'Upset and disrupted' by flood, resident says

Mary Pacey, 93, has lived along the St. John River since the 1940s.

Pacey endured the 1973 floods and told CBC News that this spring's rising waters have her concerned.

"You're not very happy about things, you know," Pacey said. "You don't enjoy being all upset and disrupted."

Emergency officials have been going door-to-door in Fredericton and its surrounding region to make sure residents are prepared for the flood waters.

The owners of Wetmore's Nursery in St. Mary's, N.B., keep their sense of humour as the waters of the flooded St. John River take over the property.The owners of Wetmore's Nursery in St. Mary's, N.B., keep their sense of humour as the waters of the flooded St. John River take over the property. (Submitted by Shawna Powell)

For families living in the already flooded Maugerville area, women and children seem to be leaving their homes while men are staying to watch the rising waters and the sump pumps, CBC News' Nicolle Carlin said.

Many other people living in the affected areas are staying in their homes despite warnings that they may be stuck until the water recedes.

Emergency transport vehicles were being sent into already flooded areas around Fredericton on Wednesday afternoon to help residents who want to leave.

But once roads are closed to all traffic, officials will only enter flooded areas for emergencies, Morton said. Even then, it could take some time for officials to get to a flooded area, he said.

Evacuations have not been ordered though they are being recommended, Morton said, and emergency officials will try to persuade the ill and elderly in the areas outside of Fredericton to leave their homes on Wednesday.

Officials have six boats on standby that are expected to be put in the water Wednesday. Kayaks, canoes and Zodiacs are also sitting outside many homes in the low-lying communities to the southeast of the city.

Projections show more than 920 properties in the Fredericton area could be affected if the waters reach eight metres above sea level.

NB Power is warning residents and business owners that as the waters rise, power will be shut off in flooded areas.

The power is likely to be turned off in downtown Fredericton along Queen Street and on streets along the river on the city's north side, officials said. Residents are being urged to anticipate outages that could last several days.

Residents are also being warned to take precautions if they get their water from private wells. The water should also be tested and disinfected after the river recedes, officials said.

People who leave their homes are being told to contact a Red Cross registration centre that is keeping track of where people are moving to wait out the flood. Centres have been established in Burton and at the University of New Brunswick's Fredericton campus and 213 people have voluntarily evacuated their homes.

The university has also opened its residences for any families with nowhere else to go and has the capacity to accommodate thousands of people.

Emergency Measures is forecasting the following water levels:

  • In Fredericton, the water level is expected to exceed 8.6 metres by Thursday. Flood stage is 6.5 metres.
  • In Maugerville, the water level is expected to increase to 6.8 metres by Thursday. Flood stage is 6.0 metres.
  • In Jemseg, the water level is expected to reach 5.5 metres by Thursday. Flood stage is 4.3 metres.
  • In Grand Lake, the water level is expected to increase to 5.5 metres by Thursday. Flood stage is 5.0 metres.
  • In Sheffield-Lakeville Corner, the water level is expected to reach 5.6 metres by Thursday. Flood stage is 4.8 metres.
  • In Oak Point, the water level is expected to reach 4.6 metres by Thursday. Flood stage is 4.7 metres.
  • In Quispamsis and Saint John, the water level is expected to be 4.4 metres by Thursday. Flood stage is 4.2 metres.

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