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The Last Thing I needed, the First thing this morning..

May 5th, 2018 | by Richard Paul
The Last Thing I needed, the First thing this morning..
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New Brunswick could still call in army, declare state of emergency over flooding

Water levels south of Fredericton continue to rise after rain pounded the province overnight

Emergency crews responded to a propane leak at the Saint John Marina on Westfield Road Saturday around noon. (Anais Brasier/Radio-Canada)

LATEST

  • Close to 23,000 NB Power customers are without power as of 3 p.m. AT on Saturday morning
  • Up to 20 mm of rain possible for southern part of the province Sunday
  • Trans-Canada Highway between Fredericton and Moncton could be closed until next week
  • Southern water levels expected to rise for several more days
  • Coast guard mobilized along St. John River, ready to assist flood relief

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant says he has not ruled out calling in the army to assist with unprecedented flooding in the province or declaring a state of emergency, if warranted.

He made the comments Saturday in response to criticisms as floodwaters continued to rise in the southern part of the province, forcing people from their homes and closing the Trans-Canada Highway between Fredericton and Moncton.

Gallant said he did call in the Canadian Coast Guard earlier this week, which equates to requesting naval support.

“If we need additional resources, whether it be with the Canadian Coast Guard, or whether it be with the army, we are definitely prepared to ask for it.

“But we are going to listen to the officials and the experts that are saying that at this point they feel the resources we have with the Canadian Coast Guard support is exactly what we need to keep people safe.”

This is flooding along Route 105 near Jemseg, a community southeast of Fredericton. In the coming days, emergency officials expect water levels in the southern half of the province to reach historic highs. (Philip Drost/CBC)

The St. John River swelled to 5.5 metres on Saturday, well above the flood stage of 4.2 metres, and emergency officials warn the flooding could get worse in the coming days with rain in the forecast and more spring melt expected.

High winds Saturday further complicated matters, whipping up waves in already high water and causing floodwaters to gush over sandbags.

NB Power is reporting nearly 22,,000 customers without electricity across the province, as of 3:20 p.m. AT, due to broken branches and trees coming into contact with power lines and infrastructure.

The outages are widespread, but the bulk of them are in the Central York-Sunbury area, where winds are gusting up to 67 kilometres an hour.

The Canadian Coast Guard deployed three emergency response vessels on Saturday morning in Grand Bay-Westfield. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

In Saint John, emergency crews are at the Saint John Marina on the city’s west side, where an Irving propane tank is leaking.

The gas line to the building was turned off on Tuesday, but with the rising water and wind, the tank appears to have floated from from where it was tethered and is now leaking.

The flooding has now moved into its second week, displacing hundreds of residents. More evacuations were underway Friday in the river’s lower basin, and the water likely won’t recede for several days.

A map of evacuation areas along the St. John River in Saint John. (CBC)

The Canadian Coast Guard launched three boats in Grand Bay-Westfield around 11 a.m. AT to assist the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization with flood relief.

Keith Laidlaw, deputy superintendent of environmental response for the Atlantic region, said crews will be patrolling the area and offering assistance, including evacuations.

Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc, who is the minister responsible for the coast guard, said a total of seven vessels have been deployed and at least another seven are on standby.

Fisheries conservation and protection officers will also be providing patrol services to help alleviate concerns of people forced to leave their homes.

“We’re standing ready to increase as is necessary to increase that support we can provide,” he said.

“The water is rising downriver from Fredericton. Communities in southern New Brunswick should expect water levels to reach historic highs over the coming days,” said Shawn Berry, spokesperson for the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization.

Grand Lake washes over a road into Robertson’s Point, near Jemseg, on Thursday. A lot of cottages around the lake are surrounded by water. (CBC News)

“The areas impacted could include at-risk areas that have never experienced flooding in the past,” Berry said.

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement that’s in effect for New Brunswick this weekend.

600_brison_061102

Another weather system will approach the region late Sunday evening. Environment Canada said between 10 and 20 millimetres of rain is possible for the southern part of the province.

Brett Ruskin

@Brett_CBC

BREAKING: Saint John River rise is *slowing*, according to Environment Canada data. (Chart shows water level for Saint John, NB with tidal fluctuations.) pic.twitter.com/2kIAODmbnH

Brett Ruskin

@Brett_CBC

UPDATE: Water levels have broken the all-time record high… again.
At 4:01am today the river in Saint John was at 5.629 metres. pic.twitter.com/JV51bIHB1B

View image on Twitter

This comes after New Brunswick saw up to 30 millimetres of rain and scattered thundershowers over central areas overnight.

“Due to the generally saturated soil conditions for most of the province, and remaining snowpack in the northern part of the province, last night’s rainfall and the additional rain expected Sunday night could cause water levels to rise or at least stay constant into early next week,” the weather agency said in a statement.

Water levels in Saint John reached a record 5.43 metres on Friday, and they’re expected to hit 5.9 metres by Monday, according to the province’s five-day forecast.

About 1,400 residents live in the affected Westfield Road area, some of whom have already been isolated by floodwaters.

Mike Carr, who heads the Saint John EMO, said on Friday that they were six inches away from closing all of Westfield Road. As of Friday afternoon, motorists could still leave the area by vehicle heading north through Grand Bay-Westfield.

A growing number of roads in low-lying areas are becoming water-covered and impassable. (Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon/CBC)

​Officials urge anyone in communities such as Grand Lake, Jemseg, Gagetown, Hampstead, Belleisle, Oak Point, Grand Bay-Westfield, Quispamsis and Saint John to be on high alert.

“Right now, keeping people out of harm’s way is the priority,” said Gallant on Saturday morning. “Mother Nature … has a mind of her own and we’ll have to deal with what comes at us.”

Gallant urged people to be vigilant and leave their homes, stay with family and friends and avoid closed roads.

“This is a flood we have never seen before,” he said.

Water levels in Fredericton continue to hover around eight metres, or 1.5 metres above flood stage. The forecast suggests waters could begin to recede by Tuesday.

Levels in Grand Lake are expected to increase the most over the weekend, rising by almost half a metre.

As of Saturday morning, 747 people from across the province had registered with the Red Cross.

Earlier this week, Saint John issued a voluntary evacuation notice affecting about 2,000 residents in several neighbourhoods, and the province on Friday encouraged people to leave their homes before the weekend.

“Anyone who’s not acted to take necessary precautions should prepare and heed warnings from local officials, including those in at-risk areas that have never experienced flooding,” Berry said.

Dramatic drone video shows N.B. flooding devastation

 

00:00 01:26

 

Shots taken over Grand Bay-Westfield 1:26

Gallant announced on Thursday that the province has enlisted help from the Canadian Coast Guard during the worst spring flood in over 80 years. The coast guard has since arrived and is working with the provincial EMO.

On Friday, the province said six Department of Fisheries and Oceans boats and one coast guard patrol craft have been deployed in the Grand Lake area. Another patrol craft will be stationed in the lower St. John River, and a Transport Canada Dash 8 aircraft will conduct surveillance over Grand Lake.

Roads closed because of flooding

The Trans-Canada Highway between Fredericton and Moncton is expected to remain closed until early to mid-next week.

Motorists will be detoured to Route 1 at River Glade and to Route 7 at Oromocto.

Westbound traffic is being detoured to Route 1 at River Glade and eastbound traffic to Route 7 at Oromocto.

More than 140 provincial roads, bridges and culverts have been affected by flooding, including about 80 road closures.

With files from Matthew Bingley, Jaela Bernstien and Radio-Canada

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