After a difficult weekend for many Quebecers living in flood zones, Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault says she believes the “most critical” phase of the spring floods has passed, but warned the road to recovery will be long and challenging.“I want to prepare people to arm themselves with patience,” Guilbault told a news conference Monday. “The lowering of water levels will be slow and take time. We need to be aware of that and prepare for it.”Though there’s been severe damage done to thousands of homes, Guilbault said she feels the flood response across the province has been a success in terms of health and safety.“It’s been 10, 11 days, even more for some, that people have been hard at work day and night, day after day,” she said. “Thank you, everyone.”As of Monday, the number of people affected by this year’s spring flooding is now more than twice what it was during the devastating floods of 2017, due in large part to the 6,000 people evacuated from Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac during the weekend after floodwaters broke through a dike.More than 9,500 people have been evacuated across the province, compared to roughly 4,000 two years ago. More than 6,400 homes have been flooded and another 3,508 have been cut off from their communities by flood waters.Guilbault said the province is keeping an especially close eye on the situation in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, where Mayor Sonia Paulus said authorities reported a drop in water levels overnight Sunday.The construction of a temporary dike along 23rd Ave. has been completed, Paulus said, while another dike on 29th Ave. will be done soon.
Trucks have been dumping gravel on streets in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac after a dike was breached in the community.
John Kenney /
Besides the two dikes, 32 pumps were installed to push the water away and, in the meantime, the town’s stormwater management system re-started working, gradually releasing water from the streets back into the lake.In an interview on Radio-Canada, Paulus said some residents will be taken to their homes by mid-day Monday to allow them to get certain essential items, such as their medication.However, the mayor said, it’s likely people living in the most heavily flooded area — between 23rd and 29th Aves. — won’t have the same opportunity. A decision will be made later Monday.Monday morning, the worst-hit area appeared to be a trailer park in the low-lying part of town. As police and firefighters rode into the flooded streets on rafts and all-terrain vehicles, residents stood quietly watching.Sylvie Ricard just wants to go home and rescue her cat — a one-eyed tabby called “Douchette.” She hasn’t been back home since she was ordered to leave Saturday night.“Right now it’s a mix of emotions: We laugh, we cry, we think about our home and whether it’ll be OK,” Ricard said. “We don’t know anything. We can’t see anything. How high is the water? What have we lost?”Ricard, who lives next to the dike, said she was getting out of the bathtub Saturday when she heard the loudspeakers screeching.“‘Get out, evacuate now!’ the firefighters were screaming at us,” she said. “I threw on some clothes, took a few little things and left. I didn’t look back.”At the playground serving as a makeshift headquarters for relief efforts, first-responders from across the region loaded equipment onto boats. Construction crews drove load upon load of gravel onto 29th Ave. to build a temporary road connecting dry land to the dike.With every local police car on the front lines, Ste-Marthe police have rented vehicles and slapped the city’s logo on the side.Thérèse Côté has lived in town since before the dike was built in 1976. That year, it flooded so bad she had to canoe from her house to the main road so she could get to work every morning. Côté says that, for years, she thought the dike would seal her community off from the lake.“Back in the ’70s, we had a dirt basement and the house was elevated. When they built the dike, we renovated and now we’ve probably lost a lot.”One resident said his mobile home was worth about $80,000 just a few years ago.“If it isn’t a total loss, what would anyone give me for it at this point?” said the man, who did not want his name published. “Would (Premier François) Legault bail me out? He’s not giving me no $200,000. Maybe I get $30,000 and move into an apartment. Maybe they don’t even rebuild, maybe they just come in here with bulldozers and get rid of us all.”
A photographer wades into the water on a flooded street in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac on Sunday.
John Kenney /
Asked about the dike that gave way on Saturday, Paulus said repairs haven’t started yet because the water current is still too strong. Guilbault said the province will eventually conduct a “post-mortem” to understand what went wrong.In Montreal, 94 residences have been flooded, 49 are surrounded by water and 55 have been evacuated. Montreal city council voted Sunday to extend by five days the state of emergency it declared April 26.“Solidarity is the word of the day,” Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said. “We know how stressful it is for the population, the fear of losing one’s home and belongings.”Flooding has closed several streets and highways in the Montreal area. A full list of key road closures, and what the government is doing to mitigate the traffic tie-ups, is available here.The Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys announced that Saint-Gérard elementary school in Pierrefonds is closed Monday.“The school board is in constant communication with authorities,” it said. “The situation is evolving hour by hour.”The Lester B. Pearson School Board announced all its schools will remain open, but there will be no busing for students living off the island attending Christmas Park, Dorset, Beaconsfield High School, and MacDonald High School due to the closing the Galipeault Bridge because of rising waters.While visiting Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac over the weekend, Premier François Legault announced the province has donated $1 million to the Canadian Red Cross.As of Sunday, the Red Cross had taken charge of roughly 1,000 Quebecers, with about two-thirds relocated to hotels.About 100 volunteers and more than 30 staff are providing support in 11 municipalities and are monitoring the needs of 22 other communities.Presse Canadienne and the Montreal Gazette’s Christopher Curtis contributed to this report. Related