Ontario Premier Doug Ford met with Ottawa city officials and Constance Bay residents fighting to save their homes from flooding in the city’s west end on Friday morning, as water levels continue to rise along the Ottawa River.
The premier’s visit came the morning after Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency in the national capital due to forecasts of heavy precipitation and rapidly melting snow, and as members of the Canadian military rolled into Constance Bay to support residents as they fill sandbags and install them around at-risk properties.
A spokesperson for the Department of National Defence confirmed on Friday afternoon that 400 Canadian Armed Forces members had arrived in Ottawa. The troops are at the Connaught Range and awaiting instruction from Public Safety Canada about where to go in the city, the spokesperson said.
Watson’s decision to request assistance from the army was “absolutely … the right call,” Ford said, describing the flooding situation in Ottawa as “absolutely heart-wrenching.”
“It’s one thing to see it on the cameras, it’s another thing when you talk to the people face-to-face,” Ford told reporters near the swollen river in Constance Bay.
“It just rips your heart out.”
The Ottawa River Regulating Committee predicts water levels in certain communities bordering the river will peak later this weekend and surpass peak levels during the 2017 floods. Ottawa is currently under a rainfall warning, with Environment Canada predicting 20-35 millimetres of rain between Friday morning and Saturday morning.
Constance Bay, Britannia and Cumberland are the three communities in Ottawa most-threatened by flooding, according to the city.
Watson said on Thursday the city decided to call in the army because it had run out of manpower and time to meet residents’ needs and requests for help.
Ralph Goodale, federal minister for public safety and emergency preparedness, told reporters on Friday morning in Saskatchewan that the Government of Canada is still finalizing where the troops will be deployed.
The federal government would consider deploying more military personnel if necessary, he said.
As of 9 a.m. on Friday, the Ottawa River Regulating Committee said water levels in the Britannia area were 60.22 metres high, about 22 centimetres below peak levels in 2017 (60.44 metres), but predicted they would peak at 60.90 metres on Monday, about 46 centimetres above 2017 levels.
River levels, for the most part, are expected to peak on Monday and Tuesday, and on Thursday in Mattawa.
Province stands ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ with affected residents, Ford says
Constance Bay resident Steve Wood was busy fortifying his home with a wall of sandbags on Friday morning, with support from a group of friends. He said the help has him feeling “very fortunate” and that it’s “nice” to see the community receiving attention and assistance from the army.
“We are just trying to stay ahead of the game,” Wood told Global News. “With this latest forecast, it’s going to bring the water levels much higher than they were in 2017, so we’re a little concerned but we’re holding the line and we’ve got lots of great help.”
Asked if he felt he could “beat” the encroaching river, Wood said “yes.”
Ford said the province stands “shoulder-to-shoulder” with Ontario residents affected by flooding and will remain on “high alert.”
The premier was also seen handing out his cell phone number to affected residents in Constance Bay on Friday morning.
Ford told reporters he does believe there is a link between climate change and reoccurring flooding in the province.
The City of Ottawa has opened three emergency community support centres for residents affected by flooding in the Cumberland, Bay and West Carleton-March wards.
The Salvation Army says it has also deployed three of its mobile canteens to serve food and water to volunteers in Constance Bay, Britannia and Cumberland.
Deputy Mayor George Darouze is filling in as mayor while Watson is away from his duties for three days due to eye surgery.