May 5, 2017 10:37 am
Updated: May 5, 2017 6:03 pm

Trudeau says Ottawa ready to assist communities slammed by flooding, heavy rain

WATCH ABOVE: Prime Minister Trudeau 'stands with' flood-hit communities.

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Persistent, steady rains soaking swaths of central and eastern Canada that have already endured record precipitation levels threatened to trigger widespread flooding Friday and put residents and governments on high alert.

Assurances of assistance came quickly from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a scheduled stop in Montreal.

WATCH: Emergency crews help Quebecers as flooding persists

“Our thoughts are with the families and communities affected by the severe flooding that’s going on throughout Quebec and indeed across the country,” said Trudeau Friday.

READ MORE: Flooding, flooding everywhere – do Canadians have insurance for it?

“We stand ready and willing to give whatever help the federal government can to help people through this situation. And we will of course be there as the cleanup continues after the waters recede.”

Environment Canada said a massive system is slowly drenching much of Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes, triggering everything from contingency plans and flood warnings to states of emergency in dozens of municipalities.

WATCH: Residents in Pontiac near Ottawa are dealing with major flooding and are having to use sandbags to protect their homes.

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Senior Climatologist David Phillips said the weather system, which stretches down as far as the southern United States, is stalled over the vast region due to high pressure systems elsewhere in the country.

The result, he said, is relentless rain falling on regions that have already endured double to triple the seasonal norms for rainfall over the past five weeks.

READ MORE: Rigaud residents brace for another round of flooding

“The amount of moisture is significant,” he said of the current situation.

“And of course when that falls on what you’ve already had, it makes it more of an impactful storm than it would be.”

The problem is particularly acute in Quebec, where 132 communities had been affected by the floods as of noon Friday and some 700 people have been forced to abandon their homes.

Environment Canada is calling for an additional 30 millimetres of rain north of the Saint Lawrence River, adding Montreal may experience a slightly lesser amount.

READ MORE: June flooding in Alberta called costliest natural disaster in Canadian history

Eastern Quebec is also beginning to experience flooding due to the rain and melting snow.

Jean-François Blais, who lives in central Quebec and has been affected by the floods, called for more government help.

“It’s desolation, it’s really desolation,” Blais told a news conference in Yamachiche, Que., alongside various politicians.

“We need help now and we will need help when these waters have left. There will be an enormous cleanup and we need help. That’s obvious.”

WATCH BELOW: Flooding across Canada

In Atlantic Canada, the wet weather is expected to continue through the weekend, Phillips said.

Environment Canada has posted special weather statements for most of Nova Scotia warning of 50-to-100 millimetres of rain through the weekend while southwestern New Brunswick can expect around 50 millimetres of rain and northwestern areas may receive 20 to 30 millimetres.

The agency said the additional rain will exacerbate current flooding and advised residents near the Saint John River and its tributaries to remain on alert.

READ MORE: Flood watch: Heavy rainfall in Toronto prompts ferry service reduction, DVP concerns

In Ontario, the eastern community of Clarence-Rockland had already declared a state of emergency in anticipation of heavy rainfalls expected to last through the weekend.

Warnings from Environment Canada forecast between 50 and 90 millimetres of rain for some communities across the southern and eastern part of the province.

In places like Ottawa, which Phillips said has received nearly 300 millimetres of rain since Jan. 1, the rain is expected to lead to flooding in the coming days.

READ MORE: Pointe-Fortune residents brace for more flooding as Outaouais River rises

The same holds true for Toronto, which announced a contingency plan to close the heavily travelled Don Valley Parkway expressway if water levels in the adjacent Don River rise too high.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said emergency teams are on alert, and the ministries of Municipal Affairs and Community Safety are both keeping a close eye on the situation province-wide.

“We are very aware of the situation around the province and monitoring it very, very closely,” she said.

“So just hope everyone stays safe.”

Environment Canada has also issued a special weather statement for a large area of southern B.C. due to the potential for severe thunderstorms, saying conditions are favourable for the development of strong wind gusts, large hail and heavy rain.

READ MORE: 30 homes evacuated after flooding in Pierrefonds-Roxboro, Île Bizard

It said heavy rain associated with the storms, combined with snow melt, may lead to rising river levels and could increase the risk of flooding.

Such conditions are most unusual for this part of the country, Phillips said, adding the warnings are at this stage were more of a precaution than a guarantee of inclement weather.

© 2017 The Canadian Press

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