Gaston Ethier and his wife Fern travel by boat from their home in the flooded Pointe-Gatineau neighbourhood of the city on Sunday.
Errol McGihon / Postmedia
St. Louis Street in Gatineau was awash in silence Sunday — the majority of its residents had evacuated as the swollen Gatineau River left their front porches awash.The silence was broken by clanging shovels on Rodolphe Street as volunteers continued to fill sandbags, trying to outrace the rising waters.Words of encouragement were called to residents still in their houses by passersby coming to take pictures of the floods. Some residents, defeated by the water, were leaving their houses; others were sticking by their homes.François Chenier helped his father sandbag his house on Moreau Street. He and his family have been there for the past five days, helping to stave off the water.“All my family, we were raised in that household,” he said. “We know floods. I was born in 1970 and we had a flood in ’74, ’76 and 2017.”Chenier was skeptical about whether his father would evacuate, despite there being water in his basement.
Carine Aroneca, Steve Maisoneuve, Andre Guy, and dog Louis stay with their business on Rue Saint-Louis in the flooded Pointe-Gatineau neighbourhood of the city on Sunday. Errol McGihon/Postmedia
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“We’ll see how this one ends,” he said. “If the water rises again, then it will be in the house.”Gaston Ethier and his wife, Fern Ethier, however, were on their way out on Sunday morning. After a foot and a half of water appeared in their basement, they decided it was time to go. They boarded their small aluminum boat at their home on Blair Street and motored slowly down Saint-Louis Street to temporarily move in with their son.“The water is like a beaver dam now,” he said. “There’s a hole outside and all this water came in. We were drinking our coffee and in 15 minutes the water had risen half a foot!”Gaston remembers the floods of 2017 vividly. They led to most of his neighbours’ moving away. This time, he thinks he might move, too. “I hope the government buys us out,” he said with a laugh.André Guy doesn’t live in the affected areas but has been on rotating shifts with some friends to keep their friend’s hair salon, Coiffure, safe from the water. “It’s a little higher than the other houses, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we were the last ones to get flooded,” he said. The salon, owned by twins Sandrine and Carine Aroneca, hasn’t been flooded yet. But keeping it safe is a full-time job.
An abandoned house in the flooded Pointe-Gatineau neighbourhood of the city on Sunday. Errol McGihon/Postmedia
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“Somebody has to stay here 24/7,” Guy said, “in case something happens, like the sandbags falling. So we get up every three or four hours and we relay to make sure everything is fine outside. The water is going up, but it’s been stable.”Guy said the water has begun to lap at the back of their salon. “The building is like a little island now,” he said. If the water comes over the sandbags they’ve laid down, then the Aroneca twins will decide whether to evacuate.Houses along Jacques-Cartier Street farther down were quiet except for the hum of a police boat patrolling for looters. The water had stopped slightly past Saint François-Xavier Street on Sunday morning, but by mid-afternoon it had begun to creep farther along the road toward Joseph Bélanger Street.