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Quebec calls for military assistance, New Brunswick puts residents on ‘high alert’ as provinces brace for heavy flooding

Quebec calls for military assistance, New Brunswick puts residents on ‘high alert’ as provinces brace for heavy flooding
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MONTREAL — The Quebec government called for federal assistance Friday — including Canadian Forces soldiers on the ground — as the province braces for heavy spring flooding over the weekend.

The risk level hasn’t changed in recent days, but authorities now expect the brunt of flooding will begin on Sunday and last longer than expected, Quebec Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault told a news conference in Quebec City shortly after the request for help was accepted by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

While the situation could change depending on the weather, Guilbault elected to ask for assistance as citizens scrambled to protect their homes while heavy rain warnings were in effect for much of southern Quebec.

Water levels are already high and are expected to rise sharply with warm temperatures, snowmelt runoff and the heavy rainfall in the forecast until Saturday.

“My only priority is the safety of citizens,” Guilbault said. “I will spare no effort over the next few days to ensure the safety of citizens.”

Officials in several communities are worried the flooding could be even worse than the record flooding of 2017 that forced thousands from their homes.

Guilbault said Canadian Forces brass were discussing with provincial officials where to deploy military resources. She added she’d spoken directly with Brig.-Gen. Jennie Carignan and added the duration of their stay will depend largely on the situation on the ground.

Across Quebec, municipalities have been preparing sandbags and reinforcing homes as the rain is expected to intensify in the coming hours.

“Today is an important day, we’re predicting we’ll reach the water levels reached in 2017 in the next 24 hours and even exceed it,” said Ginette Bellemare, the acting mayor of Trois-Rivieres, Que., about halfway between Montreal and Quebec City.

“For our citizens, it’s a race against time. They must mobilize and protect their property.”

Guilbault said the province will also allow stores — usually closed on Easter Sunday — to remain open this weekend so residents can stock up on supplies.

People living along the Saint John River in western New Brunswick are bracing for flooding this weekend as provincial emergency officials are predicting road closures and potential property damage.

“People living near rivers and waterways are advised to remain on alert over the coming days as water levels will be near or above flood stage in many regions,” the province’s Emergency Measures Organization (EMO) said in a statement Friday.

Residents of 14 communities should be on “high alert,” the statement said.

The communities facing the biggest flooding threat include Fredericton, Saint John, Edmundston, Maugerville, Jemseg and Grand Lake.

“Water levels are forecast to increase in the days ahead,” said EMO director Greg MacCallum. “People in these areas who have experienced flooding in the past should expect to experience similar or worse conditions and are advised to know the risks, take preventative measures and to consider voluntary evacuation if necessary.”

Environment Canada has issued rainfall warnings for northern and western New Brunswick, where the ground remains frozen and won’t absorb much rainfall.

The rain is expected to continue throughout the weekend as a series of low-pressure systems moves through the region. Total rainfall is expected to reach between 50 and 80 millimetres, with the possibility of more than 100 mm over portions of the northwestern New Brunswick.

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