St. John River expected to reach its peak over long weekend

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Water levels stable as River Watch launches for 2018 flood season

The St. John River in Fredericton is expected to rise over the weekend, reaching its peak while still remaining below flood level.

Wayne Tallon of the Emergency Measures Organization said rain on Wednesday increased water levels to about six metres, higher than the 5.6 metres expected.

Flood stage is 6.5 metres along the river in Fredericton.

- EMO warns of local flooding as snowfall, freezing rain and rain warnings issued for part of province 

- Flood coverage to be extended to 42,000 New Brunswick homes 

"This is normal for this time of the year," Tallon, the City of Fredericton's director of EMO, said in an interview. "We experience this year after year."

Tallon said the local snowmelt is causing the river to rise, but he expects it to start receding after this weekend, and continue to go down through early May. The water could still rise again, however.

"Rain has a significant impact on water levels," he said.

Ice jam monitoring

Robert Duguay, a spokesperson for New Brunswick EMO, said the main worry along the river recently has been at Saint-Léonard, in the northwestern part of the province.

Right now, an ice jam has already caused flooding of one home basement in the area, but the river level is starting to decrease, Duguay said.

"There's no more ice coming from the upper region of the St. John River Valley.  …  We hope that this ice jam should eventually let the water go and things should come back to normal."

But Duguay said in areas like Perth Andover, that have seen significant flooding or ice jams in the past, water levels are low.

Duguay said another 25 millimetres of rain is expected for the northern part of the province and between 10 to 20 millimetres in the south, which could affect levels.

EMO will continue watching the river over the weekend and into next week. 

"With the St. John River, we always have to be on alert because things can change so quickly," he said.

EMO officials warn the public to:

- Be prepared for possible flooding and have a plan to evacuate and be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours.

- Move belongings to higher ground if your property is near a waterway or is in an area that is prone to flooding.

- Avoid the banks of waterways since they become dangerous this time of year. The water is cold, and currents are swift and could be carrying debris.

- Report ice jams or rising water. If you need advice, contact the EMO at 1-800-561-4034.

- Read helpful tips, the latest forecasts and public advisories by visiting the River Watch website, or by following the EMO on Twitter and Facebook.

The Fredericton Fire Department will be going door to door to hand out pamphlets about the first stage of Fredericton's flooding season.

"Prepare for the worst and hope for the best," said Tallon.

Tallon will also visit the Multicultural Association of Fredericton, where he speak to newcomers about flooding.

In some countries, Tallon said, flooding can be dramatic, with significant landslides.

"In our case that's not going to happen, so I need to let them know that we're keeping an eye on things and that they are safe," he said.

The next rise in water levels is expected around May 10, when snow in the upper basin of the St. John River starts to melt.

"If you add rain to that particular snowmelt then the flows increase and therefore the impact in the southern basin is greater, " said Tallon.