Hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes and several towns have declared states of emergency after torrential rains spiked river levels and lead to widespread flooding in Quebec.
Three municipalities are under a state of emergency Tuesday after flooding caused by heavy rain: Baie-Saint-Paul, which is located about 100 kilometres northeast of Quebec City in the Charlevoix region, as well as Saint-Côme and Sainte-Émélie-de-l’Énergie, which are in Lanaudière, north of Montreal.
Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) recorded about 56 millimetres of rainfall in Baie-Saint-Paul, Monday.
Wind gusts of more than 100 km/h were also recorded in Cap-Rouge, Saguenay and Île d’Orléans.
In Saint-Urbain, north of Baie-Saint-Paul, the search continued for two firefighters who were swept away by the waves of a swollen river Monday while helping two residents caught in the raging waters. A command post has been set up to co-ordinate search efforts for the volunteer firefighters.
More than 500 people have had to leave their homes in Baie-Saint-Paul after the level of the Rivière du Gouffre, which runs through the town, spiked on Monday.
Chloé Gosselin, who lives near the river, didn’t sleep much last night. Looking down into the basement of her home, her mattress was floating alongside papers and drawings in muddy water.
“I basically had everything in there. That was my bedroom, my son’s bedroom, my second sitting room. I had all my valuables, all my papers,” said Gosselin.
She said this is the third time her home has been flooded since she moved there 12 years ago, but the previous floods didn’t compare to this one.
The floodwaters washed out roads and carried debris including several motorhomes, which were filmed on social media smashing into bridges near the town.
Baie-Saint-Paul town officials said in a statement early Tuesday that beds were available at a shelter in town and at a nearby camp for the 584 residents who have been displaced by the flooding.
As of Tuesday morning, more than 1,000 Hydro-Québec customers are without power in the area.
The flooding also affected the town’s drinking water supply, but the situation has mostly been restored. There are fewer than 10 homes that are still without potable water, according to town officials.
Nonetheless, a preventive five-minute boil-water advisory has been issued and will remain in effect for Baie-Saint-Paul residents for Tuesday and Wednesday.
“For evacuated residents, we ask that you do not return to your residences until we have given you permission,” the town’s statement said.
François Bonnardel, the minister of public security, surveyed the damage on Tuesday. He said the Red Cross was helping displaced people, and the Canadian Armed Forces and the Coast Guard were assisting in the search for the two missing firefighters.
Kariane Bourassa, who represents the area in the National Assembly, said the flooding has devastated Baie-Saint-Paul.
“There are people who built their homes with their hands who will have to reckon with a lot of damage,” she said. “We will be there to support them.”
On Tuesday morning, Saint-Côme Mayor Martin Bordeleau said the Rivière L’Assomption water level has decreased by 30 centimetres since the flooding.
“Yesterday we were more in survival mode, with all the roads being cut off and trying to prevent it from getting worse. But today, our teams are on the ground and are in solutions and repair mode,” he told Radio-Canada’s Tout un matin program.
ECCC rainfall warnings remain in effect for Charlevoix, Saguenay and the North Shore, but Bordeleau says he believes the worst is behind his municipality.
About a dozen people in Saint-Côme have yet to return to their home after Monday’s evacuations, he said.
Flooding in Rawdon ‘stabilized,’ mayor says
Raymond Rougeau, the mayor for the town of Rawdon in Lanaudière, said the situation there has stabilized after two roads — Vincent-Massey and Lac-Morgan — were flooded.
“It’s been chaotic. All night, I had my phone on in case something was going on,” he said on CBC Montreal’s Daybreak.
Rougeau said he will be closely monitoring water levels in the coming days to determine whether putting in place additional measures is necessary.
ECCC is forecasting 30 to 50 millimetres of rain in the Lanaudière region until Wednesday, with a risk of thunderstorms.
“We’ll see if that’s going to complicate things again, but our services are on the ground,” he said.
Several roads flooded in the Laurentians, north of Montreal, threatening to cut off emergency access to some areas.
The Lac-Théodore area in Val-Morin was one such area. Residents there were in danger of being cut off entirely as access roads flooded. Town officials urged residents to leave their homes, warning that those who decided to stay would be cut off from emergency services.