Emergency officials continued today to warn residents about the risk of rising water levels in the southern half of New Brunswick on Friday after a week of severe flooding.
“This is very much far from over for the southern half of the province,” said Geoffrey Downey, a spokesperson for the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization.
“It’s not over for the Fredericton area and other spots either. We’re still well past flood stage.”
Downey said a combination of rain and rising temperatures of about 13 C in the north won’t help areas south of New Brunswick’s capital city.
Meanwhile, temperatures are expected to drop overnight and hover around 8 C in the northern part of the province.
“At night you’re not getting any relief, it’s not dropping down far enough to slow down [flooding],” Downey said.
The province can also expect between 20 and 30 mm of rain in the north.
In the central part of the province, about 15 to 25 mmn are expected, with 10 to 20 mm anticipated in the south.
Premier Brian Gallant announced on Thursday that the province has enlisted help from the Canadian Coast Guard during the worst spring flood in over 80 years.
The coast guard and the Emergency Measures Organization will determine details of its involvement, the premier said.
As evacuations continue along the lower basin of the St. John River, emergency officials warned residents that the water levels will surpass record highs in many areas, and they are expected to continue rising for at least five days.
“The water is being pushed in areas that no one has ever seen before, you don’t know how the water is going to behave,” Downey said.
Officials urge anyone in communities such as Grand Lake, Jemseg, Gagetown, Hampstead, Belleisle, Oak Point, Grand Bay-Westfield, Quispamsis and Saint John to be on high alert.
Gallant again urged residents to leave their homes while they still can.
As of Thursday night, 468 people were registered with the Red Cross from across the province.
“Even if you don’t need help, even if you’re an old pro at securing your property and getting out safely, we really would like you to register with the Red Cross so we have an accurate picture of what people are doing,” said Downey.
The province launched a disaster financial assistance program earlier this week, which will help individuals, small businesses and municipalities that suffered property damage from flooding.
Water levels continue to rise
Saint John reached the 1973 high mark of 5.4 metres during high tide early Thursday morning. The level is expected to peak at 5.9 metres on Monday.
The city is urging more than 2,000 residents to leave their homes — about 1,400 of them live in the Westfield Road area, which has been isolated by floodwaters.
“Get out, stay out and stay away,” said Saint John Mayor Don Darling. “I think it’s getting very serious here and there’s a lot more water to come and it’s unpredictable.”
Supporting a sister city
Fredericton Mayor Mike O’Brien said the city is willing to offer support to Saint John by providing public transit buses, command posts and any other kind of expertise if needed.
The local mayor said the cost of those resources doesn’t matter in times of crisis.
“Our hearts go out to the folks downriver and the good folks in Saint John as well,” he said. “Stay safe and stay strong Saint John.”
The record upriver in Oak Point, also from 1973, is 5.74 metres. The river is expected to rise to 5.8 metres Friday and six metres by Sunday.
Maugerville is projected to approach its all-time level of 7.11 metres by Friday, hovering around seven metres, and the Sheffield level has already passed the record mark of 6.45 metres and will rise and hold at 6.8 metres until Tuesday.
Water levels in Jemseg and the Grand Lake area are expected to remain stable, but well above flood stage, about 6.6 metres and 6.7 metres, respectively, for the next five days.
“The real question is, how high is it going to go in the point south of Fredericton?” said Downey.
“Saint John has already beat its flood record, Jemseg and Maugerville are certainly on the cusp, and other points like Sheffield and Grand Lake and Oak Point, they could do so as well.”
Water levels in Fredericton will remain around the eight-metre mark for the 72 hours and start to decline.
Roads still closed
Floodwaters forced the closure of the Trans-Canada Highway between Fredericton and Moncton on Thursday and could remain closed for several days.
Downey said the road will reopen again once water levels drop.
“That’s closed on an ‘as needed basis.”
More than 140 provincial roads, bridges and culverts have been affected by flooding, including about 80 road closures. That number is still expected to rise.
“This is unprecedented flooding in a lot of places,” said Downey. “It’s very hard to put a number on when things can open.”