• James Armstrong

More flooding worries in Rigaud as Ottawa River rises


PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

The view looking along Saint-Simon Street from Chemin de la Baie shows the Ottawa River continuing to exceed its normal constraints and Rigaud residents along its banks are facing the possibility of higher water levels with the prediction of more rainy weather.

Rigaud’s Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. held two press conferences this week, May 2 and 3 concerning the ongoing flooding along the banks of the Ottawa River bordering the municipality.

“It’s a miracle it’s not raining,” said the mayor on Wednesday who told media representatives in attendance the river is currently eight centimetres higher than it was on April 20.

“We expect another increase of five to seven centimeters,” he said, emphasizing that at that level, strong winds would create waves that could cause enormous damage to residences.

“Think of it as a hammer constantly hitting something,” he said. About 400 homes are implicated in the flood zone that extends along the west bank of the Ottawa River from the boundary with the Town of Hudson in the east to Pointe-Séguin in the west, including Baie-Quesnel and Pointe-au-Sable.

Communications Director Marie-Andrée Gagnon provided the following information: Normally, the river reaches a level of between 23.16 and 23.8 metres. On April 20 it was measured at 24.05 metres. As of Wednesday afternoon, it was recorded at 24.16 meters, 11 centimeters more than on April 20.

Voluntary evacuation

Currently, 31residents unable to stay in their homes are being cared for by the Red Cross with a total of 48 people directly affected by the rising river.

“We don’t know if these figures are exact because people are moving out without informing us of where they are,” reported Gruenwald. He underlined it is essential for residents in the flood zone area to inform the town if they are leaving their homes. “We spend a lot of time and energy searching for people, to know if they are alright,” he said, adding, “We need the participation of our citizens.”

State of emergency

When asked if a state of emergency would be re-instated, the mayor said it would not. “We have the machinery in place to deal with the situation,” he said. He encouraged residents who continue to stay in homes experiencing flooding to re-evaluate their situation.

“It’s not easy evacuating someone when the road is covered in three feet of water at 2 a.m.,” he said, adding that floating debris on the river is dangerous for vehicles and boats.

The long-term weather forecast is of great concern for everyone involved in the situation. If the predicted heavy rainfall arrives, the situation could change rapidly. “There are drastic changes from one day to the next,” said Gruenwald pointing out that once water fills the basement of a home it becomes impossible for the occupant to pump it out.

Available emergency assistance

Residents requiring assistance due to flooding should report to the assistance centre at the Rigaud Public Library at 102 Saint-Pierre Street. It is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. The Red Cross is onsite providing assistance in finding food and shelter and psychological assistance.

The emergency telephone line is open on a 24-hour basis at (450) 451-0869, extension 235. According to the mayor, there is a person answering the phone around the clock.

A shuttle bus has been set-up for residents in the Bas-de-la-Rivière who are no longer able to access their homes because of flooded roads. It operates from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and a schedule is available on the town’s website www.ville.rigaud.qc.ca. See online for a .pdf schedule.

The mayor said the flooding situation began in early April and people are beginning to show the signs of stress.

“We have had to organize ourselves so that people can go home and sleep,” he said in reference to town employees providing the service.

“They have been working day and night,” he added. He also expressed his profound thanks to the surrounding communities for their assistance.

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