Regions brace to fight rising flood waters and cases of COVID-19

Regions brace to fight rising flood waters and cases of COVID-19

Pontiac is one of dozens of flood-prone regions bracing for the possibility of rising waters

OTTAWA — The last couple of years have taken on a biblical tone in the rural Pontiac region of Quebec.

The small community of about 6,000 has recovered from five natural disasters in just two years. Floods and microbursts have wiped out homes, roads and culverts. Last year’s tornado was the cherry on the cake.

“Our little municipality has become experts at managing crises,” said Mayor Joanne Labadie.

But nothing could prepare them for the possibility of fighting another flood with a global pandemic on their doorstep, she said.

Still, they’re getting ready as best they can.

“The challenges of managing a flood with the complexities of COVID-19, it’s daunting,” she said.

Pontiac is one of dozens of flood-prone regions bracing for the possibility of rising waters amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Not far across the provincial border, Pontiac’s metropolitan neighbours in Ottawa are facing the same worries.

While a flood watch is in effect for some low-lying areas in the region, the overall forecasts have so far been favourable.

Still, officials warn they need to be prepared for the worst since forecasts can change quickly.

The highly contagious COVID-19 poses serious challenges for disaster response, Labadie said.

Traditional evacuation centres, for example, are out of the question because of the need to separate people from each other.

“The current pandemic is changing the way we do business, and managing a possible spring flood will be no exception,” Quebec Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault said in a statement.

She warned that due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the province will not be able to open emergency shelters as it did last year when thousands were forced from their homes.

Last year in the Pontiac, a seniors home needed to be evacuated because of the rising waters, and the municipality is warning people they need to find a safe alternative in case it happens again.

Ottawa relied on 15,000 volunteers to fill and place sandbags to protect homes and stop the water from washing ashore last year.

But public health directives to keep a distance from one another to stop the spread of COVID-19 has made that prospect nearly impossible.

“It’s been very challenging for us to plan and move forward,” Ottawa city manager Steve Kanellakos told councillors at a meeting last week.

The city has created separate COVID-19 and flood task forces to prepare, and best practices for fighting surging waters are being adapted to reflect public health recommendations.

Provinces where non-essential services have shut down might also need to re-evaluate plans to include gravel and sand suppliers in the event of a flood.

Premiers in Manitoba and New Brunswick, two provinces with historically flood prone regions, say they’re cautiously optimistic about the latest flood forecasts.

“We’re watching it very closely and currently we’ve had melting conditions that are like a typical March. We hope that continues,” New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said last week.

“We will be prepared to deal with a flood situation.”

That might mean calling in the military, he said.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said the military is trying to keep its members healthy so they can respond to disasters if needed.

“We’re looking even two, three, four steps ahead to making sure that we have troops prepared,” Sajjan said earlier this month.

In Pontiac, Labadie is also looking to the future, beyond COVID-19 and flood season to the next possible disaster.

“All we can do is hope we don’t have a drought this year.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta reports 1,731 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday

The province’s central zone has 992 active cases

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said growing COVID-19 case numbers continue to be a concern in the province. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta announces 1,077 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

There are currently 14,052 active cases in the province

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the 500 deaths from COVID-19 in the province are a tragic milestone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta hits ‘tragic milestone’ with more COVID-19 deaths

Province up to 500 COVID-19 deaths, adds 1,265 cases

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

A person enters a building as snow falls in Ottawa, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. Ottawa has been successful in limiting the spread of COVID-19 during its second wave thanks to the city’s residents who have been wearing masks and staying home, said Ottawa’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
People to thank for Ottawa’s success with curbing COVID-19: health officer

The city’s chief medical officer said much of the credit goes to the people who live in Ottawa

The Red Deer Games Foundation has made changes to its grant program as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo supplied)
Red Deer Games Foundation adjusts grant program due to COVID-19 pandemic

The foundation postponed the spring 2020 grant program due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Gold medallists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charlie Riedel
Olympic champions Virtue, Moir and Tewksbury among 114 Order of Canada inductees

Moir and Virtue catapulted to national stardom with their gold-medal performances at the Winter Olympics in 2018

Shoppers line up in front of a shop on Montreal’s Saint-Catherine Street in search of Black Friday deals in Montreal, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Black Friday shopping in a pandemic: COVID-19 closes some stores, sales move online

Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, says e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic.

skip2
Rimbey Christian School students experience the joy of giving

Grades three and four students raised $2,000 for Somalian children

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council asks for a mask bylaw to be brought forward for consideration

The bylaw would require face coverings in all indoor Town-owned and operated facilities

Most Read