Ottawa River to keep rising Tuesday, expected to peak mid-week

2019 flood
Photo via Theresa Kavanagh / Twitter

Water levels along the Ottawa River are expected to peak in the coming days, even as the region prepares to receive more rain, forecasters say.

An estimated one million sandbags are standing between the bloated Ottawa River and residences and businesses in the capital. More are in place in Gatineau on the river's opposite bank. Even so, entire riverfront neighbourhoods are flooded.

The Ottawa River isn't expected to peak until mid-week, after rising by another 50 cm. What happens after that, as in other regions, depends on the weather. Forecasts call for between 35 and 50 mm of rain toward the end of the week and depending on where it falls – the Ottawa River drains about 140,000 square kilometres of eastern Ontario and western Quebec – and how long the river takes to recede, there could be a second flood peak.

In the National Capital Region, the Chaudière Crossing remains closed due to high water levels. The National Capital Commission has also closed parts of the Parliament Hill Pathway along the Ottawa River.

On Monday, flood victims said many more homes would have been lost to this year's devastating spring flooding over the weekend were it not for the back-breaking efforts of volunteers and the military.

Emmett Power's home in Constance Bay was just centimetres from filling with water after the Ottawa River breached its banks and surrounded the dwelling he and his family bought in 2009.

It would be hard to imagine what the situation would be like without the help he received since last Thursday when the river began to rise, said Power.

“It would be very, very difficult,” he said. “The volunteers have been great. They've been delivering sandbags to us continuously and on demand when we needed them.”

The Power family home, like so many others along the river, was not fully out of danger Monday. Officials were predicting the river would rise even further Tuesday and Wednesday, despite having already surpassed the water levels seen in 2017 – an event that was depicted at the time as a once-in-a-century flood.

Power said he and his family are ready to leave if they must.

“But I'm going to go down with the ship,” he chuckled, revealing a sense of humour intact despite his exhaustion from days of heavy lifting and sleepless nights.

A 20-minute drive west, upriver from Constance Bay, Henry Wilson was spending another day helping an ill neighbour reinforce a wall of sandbags where water-facing lawn furniture would normally sit.

Wilson praised those who helped with trucks, shovels, bags and muscle over the weekend, but said he hoped the effort wouldn't be wasted.

“She's been trying to win maybe a losing battle here yet,” Wilson said of his neighbour. “So far we're winning it, but it's been endless work.”

The flooding has forced thousands of people out of homes in New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario since last week.

The City of Ottawa said thousands of people had registered to fill sandbags, set up walls to slow the water from reaching properties and deliver food to overwhelmed flood victims.

So far, more than 9,000 people had volunteered across the capital, including over 3,300 people on Sunday alone, said Pierre Poirier, the city's head of emergency management.

There were far fewer Monday, at over 600, but that's to be expected on a weekday, he said.

“The number of volunteers will continue to fluctuate, but we still need all the help we can get. In fact, today we had a number of schools sending volunteers as well.”

Many more than those who registered with the city volunteered their time and efforts as part of community organizations.

Roughly 800 people each day turned out to help at the Constance and Buckham's Bay community centre over the weekend.

The Canadian Forces said it has deployed approximately 750 military personnel since April 25 to support flood relief efforts in the National Capital Region, including helping fill sandbags and heave them into walls around homes and critical infrastructure – such as the road to one of Ottawa's two major water-treatment plants.