Hundreds heed call for help in Gatineau to fill sandbags as flood risk rises
Published Friday, April 19, 2019 3:37PM EDT Last Updated Friday, April 19, 2019 6:41PM EDT
The risk of flooding continues to rise in Gatineau, Ottawa and in areas along the Ottawa River. And the municipality of Pontiac has declared a state of emergency. Rain is expected to continue over the coming days and residents and authorities are bracing for the worst. But in a Gatineau arena today, there was an incredible scene as hundreds of people, including adults and children, filled thousands of sand bags in a frantic effort to turn the tide on the flood waters that are once again threatening homes. Teenagers Vanessa Rochon and Alexandre Valiquette could have slept in this holiday Friday.Instead, there they were shoveling sand, fillings bags and remembering the flood two years ago that devastated their community.
“There was a lot of water,” recalls 16-year-old Rochon, “It was really sad to see people on the news with no more homes and no more food. So we were like, let's not let it happen again this year.”
But indications are it could indeed happen again. River levels are continuing to rise and the rain is continuing to fall; a frightening combination for Jean-Guy Momy whose home in Pointe Gatineau was flooded in 2017.
“We had 6 feet of water right up to the ceiling in the basement,” he says, “so we lost everything in the basement. So, now it doesn't look too good; it's not promising at all. I think we're going to get it probably get it worse.”
This area was one of the worst hit on the Quebec side during those floods. In Gatineau, more than 22-hundred homes were flooded. In Pointe Gatineau, more than 200 homes had to be demolished.
So, homeowners in the flood zone are doing what they can to prepare, moving valuables out of their basements and piling sand bags around their homes.
And others are doing what they can to help, including Julie Bedard and her husband Pierre Chene who came to the Beaudry Arena today to fill sand bags.
“When we saw this morning that invitation to come here,” sayd Bedard, “we just came right away.”
Paul Morin brought his three sons along to pitch in.
“It's to show them an example of helping out as a group,” he says, “as a family. Gatineau is a great big family.”
The sand bags will be distributed in and around areas that are at risk of flooding. How many will be needed is unknown at this point in time but during the 2017 flood, more than 200,000 sandbags were utilized.
Gatineau's mayor predicts we could see a repeat.
“It's probable it's going to happen,” says Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, “so all our forces are on the ground working to prepare.”
And other forces, including the Canadian Armed Forces, are in the wings. The municipality of Pontiac has declared a state of emergency, allowing a rapid response to its needs, says Mayor Joanne Labadie,
"We are also demanding urgent help from the province of Quebec," she said in a news release.
William Amos is the Liberal MP for the Pontiac, an area also at risk of flooding, “If it comes to that point that it requires help of armed forces, then our government stands ready to respond immediately.”
As for Jean-Guy, he just needs help getting sands bags to secure his home. His car is too small, he says, and he doesn’t have the strength anymore to drag them home. Right now, he's hoping for the best but figures this flood will be his last flood.
“This will be the last time,” he says, “We're going to move out. We are going to stay far away from the river after that.”