For over a week, volunteers and city workers in Montreal’s Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough have been working tirelessly filling and delivering sandbags in a bid to keep floodwaters at bay.
So far, the efforts have paid off.
“We had over 700 residents that were affected in 2017, and now at the level that it is today, we have about 20 to 30 homes on one street that are affected for other reasons,” borough mayor Jim Beis told Global News on Thursday.
With 30 kilometeres of waterfront properties, the West Island community was hard-hit by spring flooding two years ago.
WATCH: Volunteers fill thousands of sandbags to save Pierrefonds homes from flooding
Beis says the borough did its homework and was ready this time around.
“We learned a lot of lessons; like where does the water come in, where does it crest,” he said.
It was learning that type of information that led the city to build natural dikes at key locations. The dikes made of compacted soil and grass, act as natural barriers, replacing the need for tens of thousands of sandbags, according to Beis.
The borough also installed balloon booms on its territory and has numerous pumps to pump water back into the river where needed. Divers were also sent to close up storm sewer exits.
“We put out how-to videos a year-and-a-half ago. We had information sessions, we went door-to-door telling people this is what you do in case of an emergency,” Beis explained.
He said it was a combination of initiatives that were put into play in a bid to mitigate damage.
Beis wasn’t ready, however, to call those measures a success just yet.
With more rain in the forecast, tension remains high.
“My gosh, if we can maintain what is happening today for the next 48 hours we would be extremely pleased,” he said. “But you can also imagine the anxiety, the nervousness, especially for the ones that haven’t been re-established 100 per cent in their homes from two years ago that are potentially living another crisis.”
“We’re keeping our fingers crossed knowing that the amount of rain that’s to come in the next 24 to 48 hours and possibly a surge in the river,” he said.
Beis said city crews remained on high alert.
“We’re watching this closely and we’re applying all the different measures that we know,” he said. “We’ve learned to reinforce the dikes that are there already as to not have a breach. If there should be a breach we have mobilization on the territory that will react immediately to try and cap it and maybe have minimal damage in some of these areas.”
Asked how he felt about the Coalition Avenir Quebec’s recent proposal to buy out homeowners who want to move away from rivers, Beis said it wasn’t a top priority.
“We’re wasting too much energy talking about this potential eventuality for what the government is proposing,” he said. “I think that 100 per cent of all our efforts have to be devoted to caring and I’ve said it, empathizing and being compassionate and supportive to our community that has lived through horrible circumstances two years ago and unfortunately may be faced with the same thing.”