Hundreds more people across southern Quebec were forced to leave their homes last night because of flooding that officials say will only increase as temperatures rise Sunday and melt more snow.
Around 600 Canadian Forces troops have been deployed across the province, with some already at work Saturday night.
“The evacuations are going well,” said Éric Houde, director of Quebec’s civil security operations. “Everyone in these regions remembers the floods of 2017 … the municipalities’ level of preparation is significant.”
More than 1,000 homes have flooded in the province, so far the majority of them in communities south of Quebec City, including 500 in Sainte-Marie, about 60 kilometres south of the provincial capital.
In Sainte-Marie, some residents’ vehicles are under water and locals are using boats to help their neighbours leave their homes.
The Chaudière River was rising around 20 to 25 centimetres per hour Sunday morning and had reached levels the town’s mayor, Gaétan Vachon, said were unprecedented.
“We had big floods in 1987 and 1991,” Vachon said Sunday. “At this point we’ve exceeded the highest level.”
Temperatures are forecast to reach 18 C in the Montreal area, 17 C in Trois-Rivières and 15 C in Quebec City on Sunday.
“We’ve had exactly the ingredients” for significant flooding, said Marie-Ève Giguère, a meteorologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada. “A significant thaw, overnight lows above zero and a lot of rain.”
The forecast for the rest of April shows cooler temperatures across the province and no major precipitation, Giguère said, which should help reduce flooding risks in the days ahead.
With the second major flooding in three years, Quebec Premier François Legault said that he wants to create incentives for those living in flood-prone areas to move elsewhere.
“It’s sure that climate change is having an impact, and we must adjust our program,” he said while visiting affected areas in Laval. “If it’s necessary to compel people to move, then we’ll do it.”
He said his government is considering covering moving costs for Quebecers, once the cost of repeated repairs of flood damage reaches a certain threshold.
Troops in Bécancour, Laval
In Bécancour, across the river from Trois-Rivières, around 20 troops arrived late Saturday night and worked until 2 a.m. putting sandbags around the town’s water filtration plant to protect the water supply from contamination.
Approximately 140 troops from CFB Valcartier arrived in Gatineau Saturday night. The soldiers will be deployed across the Outaouais on Sunday morning, Étienne Dion, a military public affairs officer, told Radio-Canada.
About 200 troops arrived in Laval Sunday as waters rose in the Rivière des Prairies and the Outaouais and Mille Îles rivers, but the Montreal area has been thus far spared from major flooding.
Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault said Saturday evening that troops were also being sent to Saint-André-Avelin, Trois-Rivières and Pontiac — where a 72-year-old woman died yesterday after floods washed out a road.
In the Montreal area, roads in Laval, Île Bizard and Pierrefonds have flooded, with some local road closures, but Urgence Québec had not reported any flooded homes on Sunday morning. Four people have left their homes in Laval.
Officials in Montreal have built temporary barricades in vulnerable areas around the city, said Martin Guilbault, chief of operations at the Montreal fire department. He said citizens in threatened areas need to protect their homes with sandbags that have either been delivered or are available for pickup at distribution centres.
The City of Montreal has asked for volunteers to help fill sandbags and distribute them in at-risk areas.
In Rigaud, west of Montreal, 25 homes have flooded; around 50 more are cut off by floodwaters and another 100 are at risk of flooding. The Red Cross says it is housing 21 families that have left their homes in area hotels.
Streets are flooding Sunday morning in Île-Bizard and Pierrefonds, with the water expected to continue rising. <a href=”https://t.co/uIm6GGSVI1″>pic.twitter.com/uIm6GGSVI1</a>
The suburb of Vaudreuil-Dorion, parts of which border the Lake of Two Mountains and the St. Lawrence River, advised residents that a drone would be operating in the area to assess the situation from the air. The Montreal Metropolitan Community is also using a plane to observe the extent of flooding.
In the east end of Gatineau, water levels have risen by 40 centimetres over the last 24 hours and will continue to rise, but Mayor Maxime Penaud-Jobin said that it does not appear the flooding will be as bad as in 2017.
Around 40 people in Gatineau have sought help at a disaster relief shelter.