Heavy rains add to flooding worries in New Brunswick

Residents of New Brunswick desperately need a break from the flooding that has struck the province over the past week, but it appears that any relief will have to be delayed as heavy rains drenching the province today and tomorrow add even more water to already-overloaded streams and rivers.

It's been a rough week across parts of eastern Canada, as a rapid spring thaw combined with heavy rains to fill waterways through eastern Ontario, southern Quebec and New Brunswick until they overflowed their banks. Evacuations were ordered in many regions as the waters rose, and states of emergency have been called to allow emergency workers to help those in need. While the spring thaw has continued into this week, adding even more melted snow to streams and rivers and raising the risk of ice jams across all these areas, a weather system pushing through the Maritimes is adding to the flooding risk in New Brunswick, as it dumps up to 30-40 mm of rain on the province over the next day or so.

Water levels in streams and rivers throughout New Brunswick rose dramatically last week, reaching about three to four times what they were running at over the first half of April. This caused widespread flooding, with water spilling over to spread through riverside communities, filling basements and covering roadways, prompting many to leave their homes until the waters subsided. Levels have been dropping fairly steadily through northern and western parts of the province since then, but regions around Fredericton and St. John are still seeing water levels are already well above normal.

For the St. John River through the Fredericton area, where the river reportedly rose to over seven metres deep last week — over four and a half times higher what was seen for the first half of the month — water levels have apparently only gone down by about a metre or so. Further downstream, towards St. John, the river has been running at roughly the same levels since they crested last week — at over three times what they were earlier in the month. With these level still running high and with more rain added to the system over the next 24 hours, flood warnings are in effect for the regions around both Fredericton and St. John.

The province has issued further alerts for the Upper St. John River near Muniac, the Southwest Miramichi River near Upper Miramichi, and the Restigouche River where it meets the Matapedia River, due to ice buildup. Although they say that this ice is not holding back any waters at the moment, further warm weather and influx of rainwater could cause this ice to move and jam, blocking river flow and causing further flooding.

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A blast of cold sweeping through New Brunswick tomorrow afternoon will be turning the rain into a mix of snow and ice pellets before it tapers off completely. Although that still adds even more precipitation to the already-overloaded system in the area, it will at least give a bit of a delay to it entering the waterways. Along with what appears to be a break from any further rain until at least Sunday, this will hopefully give water levels in the province's streams and rivers a chance to return to more normal levels, and for the province's residents to start cleaning up.

(Photo courtesy: The Canadian Press)

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