Thousands face power outages, flooding as heavy rains wallop New Brunswick

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Rising flood waters close roads in several New Brunswick communities

Nearly 10,000 people in New Brunswick were without power Saturday morning as heavy rains pummelled the province, forcing some people in the southeast part of the province to leave their homes temporarily due to risk of flooding. 

Environment Canada issued weather warnings Friday, varying from flash freezes, to heavy rain, freezing rain and snow, for every part of the province this weekend. Some northern areas are expected to experience a mix of all four, making for a messy 48 hours.

According to the weather agency, some parts of the province had received over 100 millimetres of rainfall within 24 hours. 

Mechanic Settlement, which is located between Fundy National Park and Sussex, received the most rain in the province — at a whopping 129 millimetres between Friday and Saturday evenings.

Bouctouche received 109.6 millimetres, St. Stephen received 89 millimetres, Sussex and Fredericton received about 61 millimetres, and CFB Gagetown received 64 millimetres.

At a media briefing Saturday afternoon, Greg MacCallum, director of New Brunswick's Emergency Measures Organization, said this weekend's weather has resulted in flooding in some communities through the province, as well as infrastructure damage and an extensive list of road closures. 

Localized flooding has been primarily due to drainage problems, he said, where drains are overburdened or blocked with ice. 

In Hoyt, N.B., EMO has provided boats to the local fire department in case they need to begin evacuating homes, MacCallum said. 

The town of Sussex also advised evacuation of parts of the community Saturday morning, setting up an emergency shelter at Kingswood University. 

The evacuation order affected between 80 to 100 people living near Trout Creek, but was lifted by noon. 

Waterways at risk of flooding 

Currently, EMO is monitoring several rivers and waterways throughout New Brunswick that are at risk of flooding, MacCallum said. These include Trout Creek in Sussex, the southwest Miramichi River, Canaan River, Kennebecasis River, Magaguadavic watershed including Lake Utopia, and the Nashwaak River near Fredericton. 

He advised residents living near streams or rivers to be alert for ice movement as there could be the possibility of ice jam flooding. 

Residents experiencing flooding can report issues to EMO by calling 1-800-561-4034. 

Thousands without power 

As of 11 a.m., 10,078 people were without power in the province, according to NB Power's website. By 7:30 p.m., 5,693 were still facing outages. 

The outages have been concentrated in the Kennebecasis Valley area, but many customers in the Kent, and Kings/Queens County areas are also affected. 

Marc Belliveau, a communications officer with NB Power, said the situation in Kennebecasis Valley has been most challenging due to "very, very heavy winds," which are causing trees and debris to fall on power lines. 

Some customers have been without power for 12 hours, he said. 

There are currently about two dozen crews working to restore power to affected customers, with most concentrated in southern New Brunswick, he said. 

Freezing rain could also cause outages in Fredericton, Woodstock, Bouctouche, and Miramichi, Belliveau said. 

Flash freeze warnings in effect for southeast areas 

As thousands remain without power and contend with flooded homes and roads, Environment Canada has issued flash freeze warnings for areas in the southeast of the province as temperatures begin to fall rapidly. 

Flash freeze warnings are issued when a rapid drop in temperature is expected, which can cause water from rain or melted snow on streets and sidewalks to freeze quickly.

"Very mild temperatures over southern New Brunswick will drop dramatically and fall below the freezing mark by early this evening," the weather agency said in a statement. 

"This rapid drop could lead to a sudden freeze on untreated surfaces or where rainfall on the ground has accumulated."

The warning applies to Saint John, Sussex, Kennebecasis Valley, Kings County, Grand Manan, Fundy National Park, and coastal Charlotte County. 



Road closures pile up

Road closures began to pile up by midday Saturday as rain continued in New Brunswick. According to New Brunswick's Department of Transportation, at least six roads were closed throughout the province: 

- Route 495, and Route 485 near Moncton are closed due to washouts. Route 515 near Bouctouche is also closed due to flooding.

- A road closure and detour is now in effect on McLaughlin Drive near the Trans Canada Highway overpass in Moncton

- Wirral State Road near Wirral and Cochrane Lane near Welsford are closed to emergency vehicles due to flooding.

- Route 126 between Moncton and Miramichi is closed due to flooding

- Brittain Road between Neprepris and the Grand Bay area is closed due to flooding 

- Route 102 south of the TransCanada Highway towards Gagetown is closed due to a washout 

You can find updated travel advisories and road closures on the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure's website. 

MacAllum advised New Brunswickers to avoid taking any unnecessary trips at this point, and avoid roads covered by water "as it might not appear deep, but could be dangerous." 

Robert White, the deputy mayor for the village of Gagetown, said the washout of Route 102 has essentially cut off public access to the town since the community's ferry service was scrapped by the province in 2015. 

The municipality has secured road access for emergency vehicles through Base Gagetown, he said. 

'It's just part of what happens'

Sussex fire chief Harold Lowe said some roads have been closed in the community due to water on the roads "so we're still actively monitoring everything."

More than 20 firefighters and volunteers have been going door-to-door to check on residents since 3:30 a.m., he said. 

"Sussex has a history of flooding … it's just part of what happens," he said. 

"There are areas in town, when the water gauge gets to a certain level, then we, the town workers and volunteer firefighters, go door to door and we expand that as the water rises."