Gatineau flooding a race against time, officials say

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Central and Eastern Canada brace for rain and flooding

Emergency officials in ​Gatineau are advising residents of some 300 homes to leave immediately as water levels there reach a 20-year high and forecasters call for more rain.


Jean-Guy Leclerc, director of operations for the Gatineau Fire Service, said water levels are expected to continue rising in the coming days. Rescue crews have already had to use boats to help people from their homes.

Claire Tremblay said her basement flooded almost to the ceiling after her sump pump stopped working, but she said she plans to stay as long as possible.

With water levels rising steadily at two centimetres per hour, time is running out for many residents.

City officials said at least 91 people have already been forced from their homes, with about one-third of them currently in the care of the Red Cross. The municipality has set up two evacuations centres, and about 40 roads have been closed.

Adding to the worry is the current forecast, with up to 45 millimetres of rain expected Friday, with more wet weather coming Saturday and Sunday. With the ground already saturated, runoff is being channeled into the region's rivers.

Officials in Clarence-Rockland are recommending people leave their homes if they're flooded because emergency response will be delayed by the flooding.

Maniwaki also on flood watch

In Maniwaki, the Desert River, which runs along the Rue des Oblats, swelled by 50 centimetres Monday and another 50 centimetres Tuesday.

Officials hope the water level will stabilize for the rest of the week, but additional rainfall expected to hit the region Friday worries the director of civil security for the Outaouais, Gaetan Lessard.

With water levels expected to rise Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Lessard said officials might have to reopen the Mercier dam floodgates. That could cause levels in the Desert River to rise even higher, he said.

Maniwaki resident Jean-Michel Lapratte, who remembers massive flooding in 1974, is taking precautions.

"We emptied the basement, we put everything up that we could climb. My workshop and my carpentry equipment were emptied. It's in my brother's house. We tried to save as much material as possible."

Despite everything, the mayor of Maniwaki, Robert Coulombe, said he's confident the town's pumping station will be able to handle the pressure, but he's wary of the coming rain.

"We are not comfortable in the situation, but it is not alarming due to the current level," Coulombe said. "On the other hand, there will be a significant increase in water level in the coming days. We dare hope that the rain will not be there."