The flood of 2019: ‘Planning for the worst and hoping for the best

The flood of 2019: ‘Planning for the worst and hoping for the best

Ottawa River levels are likely to rival those of two years ago, according to a new forecast Monday from the agency that oversees the river.

“From Ottawa/Gatineau down to Hawkesbury/Grenville, water levels are expected to be stable then rise rapidly later in the week. Peak levels may be similar to those observed in May 2017 in all locations,” the Ottawa River Regulation Committee said.

“For the Lake Coulonge to Lac Deschênes reach, levels will continue to increase with major flood levels possibly exceeded starting Wednesday.”

It bases the forecast on warm weather that melts snow, along with between 15 and 50 millimetres of rain expected higher in the watershed.

The committee estimated that from Monday afternoon, levels at the Hull Marina could rise another 44 centimetres and at Britannia the water may rise 60 cm. It cautioned that these were only estimates.

Residents all along the Ottawa river were watching nervously as the swollen water rose closer to the historic levels from two years ago.

“Basically, we are planning for the worst and hoping for the best,” said Eli El-Chantiry, Ottawa city councillor for West Carleton-March ward, including Constance Bay, which was hit with widespread flooding in 2017.

Residents of Gatineau have borne the brunt of the river’s wrath so far this spring, with flooding in some neighbourhoods on the weekend.

Hélène Martin, left, who lives beside the Ottawa River on rue Riviera in Gatineau, says she and her husband have just finished the renovations following the 2017 flood. Ashley Fraser/Postmedia

Ashley Fraser /


By Monday, nearly 100 people in Gatineau had been evacuated and sought disaster relief at a centre set up by the city.

Desperate sandbagging continued along the river at vulnerable areas in Ottawa and Gatineau, with volunteers and soldiers from the Canadian Armed Forces pitching in.

Volunteers in Cumberland built sandbag walls around homes just metres from the Ottawa River on the weekend. Matt Gergyek/Postmedia


Sunny skies on Monday did not end the danger.

Water levels in the Constance Bay area are projected to rise an additional 30 centimetres above Monday’s figure over the next seven days.

The City of Ottawa announced that volunteers wanting to help fill sandbags would be welcome between 3 and 7 p.m. from Tuesday to Friday. Check-in points will be located at:

• Cumberland Heritage Village Museum, 2940 Old Montreal Rd. A shuttle will transport volunteers from the museum to the site and back.

• Constance and Buckham’s Bay Community Centre, 262 Len Purcell Dr., and

• Ron Kolbus Centre, 102 Greenview Dr. (upper parking lot).

Volunteers should prepare accordingly and be dressed appropriately. Meals will be provided, but those requiring special diets were advised to bring their own food.

In the Quebec municipality of Pontiac, residents along the river have been warned to get ready to leave with little notice.

The flood claimed the life of a 72-year-old woman in that municipality early Saturday after her car plunged off a road that had been washed away by a flooded creek just west of Quyon.

Some roads in Ottawa and Gatineau remain closed because of localized flooding.

The municipality of Mayo, Que., northeast of Buckingham, said the Blanche River fell 25-30 centimetres from its peak by late Monday, but parts of chemin de la Rivière Blanche remained underwater and the road bed was damaged. An engineer from the provincial Ministry of Transport was expected to visit Tuesday. In the meantime, residents were urged to use extreme caution if they needed to use the flooded road.

The armed forces arrived Saturday in the Outaouais to help fill sandbags, patrol streets and monitor infrastructure such as bridges and Gatineau’s water-treatment plant.

The Royal 22e Regiment Van Doos were in the Gatineau area helping to fill sandbags on Sunday afternoon. Ashley Fraser/Postmedia

Ashley Fraser /


Some in the region who lived through the 2017 flood are better prepared for potential disaster this time.

In Cumberland, Genevieve Landry said she was panicking on Friday, when the Ottawa River, just a few steps from the back porch of her home, began roaring and rain pelted her windows.

During the flood two years ago, water seeped into her basement crawl space, destroying mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems and forcing $300,000 in repairs.

She said she wasn’t ready to let the water break into her home again without a fight, so Landry and her neighbours spent $70,000 on a massive inflatable wall filled with water to protect their homes. If it keeps the water at bay, it’s worth every penny, she said Sunday.

Genevieve Landry and her neighbours spent $70,000 on this inflatable water-filled barrier to protect their houses. Matt Gergyek/Postmedia


She was surrounded by a group of nearly 50 volunteers filling sandbags, with a bulldozer scooping from a quickly replenishing pile onto a five-foot-tall wall.

“I’m feeling so blessed to see all these people,” she said. “It’s very humbling and very encouraging.”

Neighbours Alfred Bou-Rjeili and Erica Fleming spent $35,000 repairing their basement after the 2017 flood. They said they had a generator and sump pumps ready to go this time.

Neighbours on Boisé Lane in Cumberland built a bridge across the flood road. Matt Gergyek/Postmedia


Residents in the neighbourhood have also constructed a bridge that crosses the now flooded road outside their home.

“It hasn’t got to that stressful point yet,” Fleming said Sunday.

With files from Tom Spears


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