Quebec communities brace for more flooding as rain begins in force

The last time Guylaine Tremblay, a lifelong resident of a La Croche, a village now part of La Tuque, Que., saw water levels as high as they are now, it was 1976.

Her father took her and her siblings to school in a boat.

Tremblay is no longer school-aged, but getting around the village about 315 kilometres northeast of Montreal may soon become as complicated as it was 41 years ago as La Croche braces for the worst flooding in decades.

"Everyone is a little nervous right now with the water levels, but we will stick together and help each other out as we always do," she said.

As the Saint-Maurice River has risen, around 40 homes in La Tuque and Trois-Rives in the Mauricie region have already been flooded and a number of roads in the area are underwater. There have been some evacuations.

Parts of Shawinigan, 130 kilometres south of La Tuque — and 30 kilometres from where the Saint-Maurice empties into the St. Lawrence River — are also flooded.

La Tuque Mayor Norman Beaudoin says people in the region are used to spring flooding, but nothing like this.

"Normally, let's say in the summer season, there is 400 metres per second of water coming down the river, now we are averaging at 3,200 metres per second," he said.

The situation could worsen in the coming days, with rainfall of about 50 millimetres expected in La Tuque and the surrounding area by Tuesday.

The rains follow one of the wettest Aprils on record, with regional rainfall records set in many places across Quebec.

The civil security director for the Mauricie region, Sébastien Doire, said with all the rain comes an increased risk of landslides, although none have been reported so far.

"We don't want to be alarmist," Doire said.

Hydro-Méteo, a non-governmental agency that monitors water levels around Quebec, is also reporting high water levels in the Matawin, Maskinongé and Du Loup rivers.

Rigaud readies for flooding, round 2

West of Montreal, the Ottawa River is also high, causing renewed concern for residents still cleaning up from recent flooding.

"This is the second time around. I know people are tired," said Rigaud Mayor Hans Gruenwald, who lifted the town's state of emergency just last Wednesday, six days after it was declared on April 20 because of earlier flooding.

Gruenwald said the town held information meetings with residents on Friday and again on Saturday, reminding people that should another state of emergency be declared, "they will have to help us by helping themselves — and come out."

Many people refused to leave their homes when they received evacuation orders last month.

"It's people's right to stay where they are," the mayor said Monday. "But at the same time, they need to recognize that they need municipal services." 

Most homes in the flood zone are serviced by septic tanks and wells, and the risk of water contamination is high.

Gruenwald said so far, there is no plan to renew the state of emergency declaration, however, Rigaud's public works department, fire department and the Red Cross are all on standby.

He urged residents to leave sandbags in place and said more will be made available, should the situation warrant it.

Maniwake seniors home evacuated

In Maniwaki, 135 kilometres north of Gatineau, a seniors' home was evacuated Monday morning as a precaution due to rising waters in the nearby Désert River.

The amount of recent rainfall has forced Hydro-Québec to open the gates of a hydroelectric dam on the river, and officials are keeping a close eye on water levels as a result. The river could reach critical levels by the end of the day.

Two schools in Maniwaki, an elementary and high school, were also evacuated as a precaution. Students were sent home on buses mid-morning.

The Gatineau region is expecting between 25 and 40 millimetres of rain today.