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Montreal launches spring flood prevention campaign amid coronavirus pandemic

Montreal boroughs preparing for spring floods
WATCH: Although the province is in the throes of a pandemic, some Montreal-area residents have bigger concerns. Spring flooding. While preparations are underway, residents in the flood zones won't be able to help out with some tasks that normally come with spring floods such as sandbagging. Global’s Kwabena Oduro explains.

The City of Montreal is launching a flood prevention campaign on Tuesday as warmer weather sets in.

Flood prevention officials will visit areas that have been hard-hit by rising waters over the past three years, including Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue and Senneville, in the coming weeks.

Residents in the Pierrefonds-Roxboro, Ahuntsic-Cartierville and Île-Bizard-Sainte-Geneviève boroughs will also be visited.

READ MORE: Major spring flooding struck 250 municipalities in Quebec in 2019

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said in a statement that the safety of citizens remains a priority for her administration amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It is important to prepare the public in high-risk areas ahead of potential flooding, she added.

“We want to equip them so that they prepare to intervene quickly, as we prepare ourselves,” she said.

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Some residents, however, are nervous about volunteer efforts.

Robert Idsinga lent a helping hand to people in his community during previous floods but he’s worried he won’t be able to do so this year.

“When you have 30 or 40 people lined up to move bags it happens very quickly but you can’t do that this year unless they have proper protective equipment cause you can’t be that close to each other,” he said.

Idsinga said some residents fear being left behind.

“They’re having lots of difficultly sleeping at night. They see the water and every inch the water comes up they’re in a panic,” he said. “They’re aware they might not get the help this year that they got last year.”

But Pierrefonds-Roxboro, preparations are already underway.

Sewer pumps have been deployed to high-risk areas, and to prevent overcrowding , the borough has people working in small teams.

“We are protecting the different areas first knowing that we can prevent the flood and minimize the impact in those areas,” said Pierrefonds Mayor Jim Beis.

“Hopefully we are not going to need the number of volunteers we had in the past.”

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Beis says he’s in contact with health officials.

“We voiced our concern to the different levels of government, I even voiced that concern to our CUISSS — our local healthy authority– making sure that if we have to mobilize our volunteer force how we will protect these people,” he said.

The city of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, an on-island suburb, has purchased pre-made sandbags to prepare for potential flooding.

It’s not counting on having the same resources as it has in the past. The city has informed residents that they will need to have a plan B.

“This year we can’t ask volunteers to come out and give us a hand,” said Mayor Paola Hawa, “and our public health employees, there are limits to what they can do, so we have brutally honest with those in the at-risk areas.”

In March, the Quebec government warned it will not be able to set up emergency shelters for displaced citizens in the case of spring flooding.

READ MORE: Why COVID-19 could affect spring flooding response in Quebec

Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault said at the time that the COVID-19 pandemic means a risk of contamination. The province has called on municipalities to secure potential accommodations, such as hotels, to house flood victims.

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In Montreal, the Plante administration said on Tuesday it is continuously monitoring water levels.

The minor flood threshold has just been reached at Lac des Deux-Montagnes and at the Carillon generating station as of Monday, according to Montreal officials. However, water levels are expected to stabilize and there will be a slight decrease in flow.

When it comes to flood prevention, the city is asking residents in at-risk zones to prepare by having a plan and 72-hour emergency kit.

In 2019, disastrous spring flooding hit at least 250 municipalities across Quebec. Rising water levels forced the evacuations of thousands of residents.

Pierrefonds on guard as flood season approaches
Pierrefonds on guard as flood season approaches

With files from Global’s Kwabena Oduro and the Canadian Press