Residents and business owners in low-lying areas near the Gatineau River should ensure their property is prepared for a significant rise in the river's water level in the coming days, says the mayor of Gatineau, Que.
The warning comes as Hydro-Québec is releasing more water upstream from its Baskatong Reservoir north of Maniwaki, Que.
"Citizens need to be prepared and they need to do what they have to do, because they do have a responsibility," said Gatineau Mayor France Bélisle during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
The reservoir, according to the utility, is at capacity due to the combination of the spring runoff and heavy rains over the past two weeks, which poses a risk to the hydroelectric dam the reservoir powers.
Maniwaki, about 125 kilometres north of Gatineau, started flooding about a week ago and Gracefield, Que., has followed.
The amount of water released by Hydro-Québec depends on the amount of rain that falls over the next few days.
Communities upstream of Gatineau are under a rainfall warning that says 40 to 60 millimetres of rain is likely and up to 75 mm is possible by Friday evening.
The water level in Gatineau is expected to begin rising Thursday and reach its peak Saturday.
Bélisle said her city has set up stations for residents to pick up sandbags and staff members are working with the Red Cross in case residents need to evacuate.
"The city is prepared, we're working, we're in the field," said Bélisle.
Same areas flooded in 2017 and 2019
The area facing the biggest threat of flooding, according to Gatineau officials, sits between the Alonzo-Wright Bridge and rue Moreau.
For Suzanne Quesnel and many of her neighbours on rue Adélard in the Pointe-Gatineau neighbourhood, this is the third time in six years they've had to fill sandbags in an effort to hold back the river's waters.
"It's very stressful living here every spring," said Quesnel. "I have PTSD pretty much from January to June. I don't sleep. You keep waiting for the water."
Quesnel, who's lived on the street since 1993, stayed even after the floods of 2017 and 2019, which caused millions of dollars in damage to the area.
If her home suffers significant damage, this could be the final straw.
"We're hoping this year the province lets us destroy the house and leave," she said. "We've been wanting that since 2017 but we never met the required elements to leave."
During her news conference, Bélisle addressed the toll this latest round on flooding will likely have on people's mental health, and implored affected residents to seek help if needed.
"I know it is hard and I know a lot of our citizens have gone through a lot in the last few years," said Bélisle.
"They need to act, but certainly they cannot underestimate the mental situation that they will be going through."