The late-season snow brought some relief to Ontarios cottage country on Saturday, slowing the flow of rising floodwaters that prompted several communities to declare emergencies — but officials are not declaring victory just yet.
Water levels in the Township of Minden Hills continue to rise, while in nearby Bracebridge the surging floodwaters have reached \”historical\” proportions, the mayors of those communities say.
The cooler weather also helped stem the flow in Huntsville, Mayor Scott Aitchison said, but the community continues to see high levels of water that arent abating as quickly as they have during past floods
\”There is just a tremendous volume of water through our four-lake system and all the rivers, and it continues to remain high,\” he said in an interview.
From the Acadian Peninsula to Ontarios cottage country, many communities are grappling with rising waters and several have declared states of emergencies. The flooding has prompted Ottawa to deploy soldiers to help with sandbagging and other flood relief efforts in hard-hit areas.
Huntsville Minden Hills and Bracebridge all declared emergencies over the past week due to the flooding.
Bracebridge water levels continue to rise in wake of flooding state of emergency
Minden Hills received half the precipitation it expected while the colder weather has helped to slow the flow of water into lakes, rivers and streams, said its mayor Brent Devolin.
\”Im cautiously optimistic … were not done yet, we havent peaked,\” he said in an interview. \”But the water levels that we were afraid of coming at this point are more stable.\”
The province’s Disaster Recovery Assistance for Ontarians program helps people recover costs after natural disasters. It may be activated for damage to private property if there’s a sudden and unexpected natural event, such as a flood, that causes costly and widespread damage in an area, the statement says.
Water levels in the town of roughly 1,200 people have not reached the level of the devastating floods the region dealt with in 2013, he said.
Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith, however, said in terms of water flow and impact on residents, the recent bout of flooding sets a new record.
\”Its safe to say what we are dealing with right now is a historical event…. Putting it in context of 2013, this is now its own animal,\” he said.
Flooding in Bracebridge, Muskoka can now be considered a historic event
Smith said in a press conference Saturday that water levels in several areas are up slightly due to Fridays rainfall. Snow was a welcome sight as it acts as a \”sponge\” for some of the water on the ground, Smith added.
Mary Lake, a major lake north of the community has crested, but water levels continue to rise, signalling that outflow is going up and headed towards Bracebridge, he said.
“I don’t know if we’re going to see it rise a lot more than it already has,” Bracebridge mayor Graydon Smith said. “How long they stay at that level and how long it takes to go down, we don’t know exactly.”
Meanwhile, water flow in the north branch of the Muskoka River at Port Sydney was measured Saturday morning at 259 cubic metres per second — above the previously recorded high of 228 cubic metres per second, Smith told reporters.
He said he didnt have precise numbers as to how many homes and residents have been affected thus far. However, Smith estimated that it was \”likely higher\” than the 1,000 permanent residents and 1,000 seasonal properties affected during the 2013 floods given the larger extent of flooding at the mouth of the river.
Flood conditions in Ontario cottage country continue to worsen, and it's not yet clear when water levels may begin to recede.
Rain and flooding persisted in the town of Bracebridge, Ontario, on April 26, three days after officials declared a state of emergency due to flooding.
Graydon Smith, mayor of Bracebridge, Ont., said Saturday that flows in local rivers intensified overnight, threatening more homes and seasonal properties in the community about 150 kilometres northeast of Toronto.
A state of emergency remains in place and a group of reservists with the Canadian Armed Forces will be deployed to the area on Sunday afternoon. Smith explained that officials are worried that once the work week begins, volunteer support from residents will be considerably reduced.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry in the Parry Sound District is advising residents of the District Municipality of Muskoka, the Territorial District of Parry Sound and the northwest portion of the County of Haliburton that a flood warning is in effect until Friday, May 3.
"The main concern is that the water is going up and nobody is able to say when it will stop going up," Smith told reporters at a morning news conference.
"Even what it does get to a crest, it's going to maintain for some period of time and then take time to again go down."
The hardest hit areas in Bracebridge sit adjacent to the Muskoka River. The north branch of the river flows through the downtown core before meeting with the south branch and draining into Lake Muskoka.
“That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can act as a bit of a sponge for some of the water that’s on the ground, and with the colder temperatures, slow some of the flow into the lakes and rivers and streams,” Smith said.
Water levels in both branches of the river and in Lake Muskoka rose overnight, Smith said, breaking records set in 2013 — the last time the community dealt with a significant flood.
"We're seeing some very dramatic flow rate increases from previous highs," he explained. "It's safe to say that what we are dealing with right now is a historical event."
Smith noted at a later news conference held Saturday afternoon that water levels in the north branch seem to have crested, while the south branch continues to rise.
During the 2013 flood, about 1,092 permanent residences and some 1,020 seasonal properties were affected by floodwater. Smith could not provide specific figures for the current flooding, but did say water levels are "likely higher than 2013" because of the extent of flooding around the mouth of the Muskoka River.
Both Fairy Lake and Mary Lake, near the neighbouring town of Huntsville, drain into the Muskoka River that runs through Bracebridge. Both lakes have seen flooding in recent days, said Smith, and don't have the capacity to take on any more water.
"River is higher, water is flowing faster. Every time that water goes up an inch someone's house is being encroached on more and their personal property is at risk," Smith said.
Smith initially said that officials were considering closing Beaumont Farm and Alport Bay roads, however he later indicated a decision was made to keep them open.
He cautioned that there is still "lots of water over the road and it's not easily traversible." He asked that only local residents with homes in the area consider using the roadways, adding that authorities had dealt with several "disaster tourists" in the area earlier in the day.
It is still possible that those roads will be closed in the coming hours and days; people who may require emergency assistance should pay close attention to conditions.
Residents with flooded wells are being told to use alternate sources of water. Health officials caution that well water that has been compromised can become contaminated with bacteria and is not safe. Anyone in flooded areas should assume their water is not potable. People should avoid using the water for any reason, including brushing teeth, cleaning food, making baby formula, washing dishes, or anything of the like. It is recommended that once the flood waters recede, residents have their water supply tested to ensure its safety.
"If you need first responder assistance, we can't guarantee that assistance will get to you in a timely fashion," Smith explained.
While the extent of flooding is unprecedented, no injuries due to the rising water levels have been reported in Bracebridge. Smith said the town's population has come together in the face of tremendous adversity.
"Let's hope that everyone continues to be safe, let's hope that we all continue to help one another and that in a few days we'll be through this. But it is going to extend for at least a few more days."
No more rain is forecast for the area until Wednesday, potentially offering a chance for conditions to stabilize somewhat. Smith said that he recently spoke with officials in Huntsville, about 30 kilometres north and upstream of Bracebridge, and the flooding situation there has begun to subside, a potentially positive development for communities downstream.
Those with seasonal residences in the area, however, have been warned not to try to check on their properties until conditions stabilize.
As Bracebridge deals with a deluge, Ottawa, Montreal and swaths of New Brunswick are also inundated by floods.
The Ottawa River is expected to continue to rise in coming days and officials in Montreal were forced to close the Galipeault Bridge, a major traffic artery, due to dangerously high water levels. More rain is forecast to fall on the Montreal area throughout Saturday.
Further, according to the latest numbers from the Quebec government, 3,000 homes are flooded across the province and almost 2,800 are cut off by floodwaters, forcing about 1,800 people from their homes.
Hundreds of military personnel have been dispatched to help with sandbagging efforts in Ottawa and parts of Quebec and New Brunswick.
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