Rising flood waters force evacuations in southern Quebec, state of emergency in eastern Ontario

Hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes in Sherbrooke, QC, as the rising waters of the Saint-François River overflowed its banks today.

A fast spring thaw over the past week through southern Quebec, combined with steady rains that became downpours at times has forced far more water through the Saint-François River than usual for this time of year. According to reports, water levels as of this morning reached 7.5 metres, which is over four times higher than the normal 1.8-metre depth of the river, and the highest the river has reached since flash flooding in mid-April of 1982 pushed river levels up to 7.9 metres, the highest on record.

600 people have been evacuated from their homes, as officials in Sherbrooke, QC, right along the banks of the river, closed down 24 roads in the city due to flooding.

[ Related: Flooding in Sherbrooke, Que., forces more than 600 from homes ]

Far from being limited to just the Saint-François River, the flooding situation in southern Quebec is widespread, with two dozen rivers across the area under alert status as of this morning.

Water levels in the rivers around Quebec City have been rising steadily over the past few days, reaching high enough for city officials to put its municipal civil security plan into effect. A state of emergency was declared in the small town of Lac Beauport, along the Jaune River to the north of Quebec City, this morning. Two of the three bridges that span the river in the town were closed and over 100 homes evacuated, with some 30 residents needing help from rescuers in canoes to escape the flooding. A similar situation arose along the Saint-Anne River, to the northwest of the city, forcing 50 homes and a seniors residence to be evacuated in the town of Saint-Raymond.

Water levels in the Chaudière River, to the south of Quebec city, are also causing concern, as they've risen to 'major flood' status according to the province's flood monitoring system. Roughly 250 people have fled from their homes in the towns of Saint-Marie, Vallee-Jonction and St-Joseph. Of particular concern is the town of Lac-Megantic, further upstream, where a disastrous railway explosion last July dumped over 5 million litres of crude oil into the soil and river along the town. If there are any remaining toxins in the water there, these could be washed quite far downstream by rushing flood waters.

[ More Geekquinox: Record-breaking cold greets early-risers across Ontario this morning ]

The fast thaw and added rain have regions and watersheds in southern Ontario on alert today as well. Flood warnings are in effect for the Grand River, the Nottawasaga Valley and Lake Simcoe, and for most regions through into eastern Ontario, including the Ottawa River valley. The town of Belleville was already sandbagging against the rising floodwaters as of Sunday, and a state of emergency has been declared today in the village of Tweed, along Hwy 7 north of Belleville, due to rising waters in the area. The amount of water flowing through the Moira River near Tweed as of noon on Wednesday was measured at nearly 270 cubic metres per second, roughly four and a half times its normal rate. Other rivers and streams in the area are showing similar increases, and authorities are saying that levels will remain steady at these levels for a week.

As for the outlook, there's a few days ahead of us for levels to adjust, but with temperatures on the rise again starting tomorrow, and rain in the forecast for southern Ontario and parts of southern Quebec starting on Saturday, this flooding may persist for awhile longer.

(Photo courtesy: The Canadian Press)

Geek out with the latest in science and weather.
Follow @ygeekquinox on Twitter!