Quebec’s Saguenay region braces for flooding as water rises to ‘exceptional and historic’ levels

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Water in Lac Saint-Jean is expected to rise to nearly six meters this weekend, and officials in Quebec’s Saguenay region are bracing for flood damage to homes.

On Saturday morning, public safety officials in Roberval said the lake was at “medium” flood risk, with water levels exceeding the official flood mark in the area.

According to the mayor of Saint-Félicien, Luc Gibbons, the rising waters have already damaged several roads in the city.

“Public works employees are hard at work,” he told Radio-Canada. “We have the situation under control. The water masses are nevertheless stable.”

Lake levels have risen steadily since last Sunday, due to overflowing rivers after snowmelt and record rainfall in the area.

The normal level of the lake at this time of year is usually five meters. The lake reached five and a half meters on Friday evening. Water levels are not expected to return to normal until Monday, civil security officials said on Saturday.

“Exceptional and historic event”

On Friday, water in the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region was dangerously close to reaching residences in Saint-Félicien and Roberval, with water from the lake already beginning to seep into some basements of the region.

“We are facing an exceptional, historic event,” said Stéphane Larouche, director of operations for aluminum producer Rio Tinto, during a press conference on Friday morning.

Rio Tinto, which controls a quarter of the water flow under several dams that are part of its hydroelectric plants, is working closely with the province and local municipalities to manage the situation.

“The rivers towards Ashuapmushuan and Mistassini received more than 60 millimeters of rain over three days. It usually only happens once every 1,000 or 10,000 years,” Larouche said.

Both rivers are not under the control of Rio Tinto.

Last week, lake waters were a little below normal levels, but those levels rose rapidly as record high temperatures hit the region, he said.

The Mistassibi River began to overflow at Dolbeau-Mistassini on Tuesday. (Andreanne Larouche/Radio-Canada)

Roberval is preparing sandbags for residents, said Serge Bergeron, the mayor of the town on the southwest shore of Lac-Saint-Jean.

One thing they are monitoring is the Roberval hospital which borders the lake, the mayor told Radio-Canada on Friday.

“At the moment, there is no cause for concern for the hospital, but the water could rise to its basement, which could cause problems,” he said.

Dozens of residences in Albanel, which borders the Mistassini River north of the lake, were evacuated on Wednesday.

The Innu community of Mashteuiatsh, located next door, is also on high alert and began distributing sandbags on Thursday.

The evacuations have forced 11 residents of the Canal du Cheval sector in Saint-Félicien to leave their homes and they will not be able to return until next week.

A hundred residents living in Le Bôme, mostly permanent residents, are also in a precarious situation, said the mayor of Saint-Félicien, Luc Gibbons.

On Friday, Gibbons said there was already water on several properties.

“The Mistassini River has grown to its limit,” he told Radio-Canada. It’s I liked the same Friday.

Some streets in Girardville, a small town in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, were closed on Tuesday due to minor flooding. (Andreanne Larouche/Radio-Canada)

Sandra Belzil, the regional head of civil security, reminded residents of waterways to remain vigilant and report any potential danger or flood to their municipality as soon as possible.

Belzil says they have set up a regional coordination center to support municipalities surrounding the lake.

“Our main role in this, as civil security, is to advise on planning, preventive measures, interventions and recovery of everything, if necessary,” Belzil said Friday, alongside Larouche.

“Over the past few weeks, we have been working to support our municipalities in a variety of ways. We also made sure they would be well prepared before the spring thaw.

Rising waters in Gatineau, Trois-Rivières

Rising waters in the Gatineau River also forced an evacuation of the Foyer Père-Guinard long-term care home in Maniwaki, Que., which began Friday.

A total of 68 residents could be away from the house for a week or more.

The mayor of the community north of Ottawa-Gatineau, Francine Fortin, told Radio-Canada on Thursday evening that no further evacuations were planned for the rest of the city.

The Gatineau River reached a “critical” water level, forcing the evacuation Friday of the Foyer Père-Guinard long-term care home in Maniwaki, Quebec. (Stephane Leclerc/Radio-Canada)

The marina and the nautical clubs of Trois-Rivières have also temporarily suspended their activities until further notice due to the rising waters of the Saint-Maurice River.

“The current puts a lot of pressure on the quays. The decision was made for the safety of boaters and our facilities. I don’t want to overload the moorings and cause the marina to fall into the river,” said Mario Cloutier, general manager of the marina, in an interview with Radio-Canada.

The Maikan Adventure The nautical center, also in Trois-Rivières, has also suspended its boat rentals due to strong currents.

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