Flooding still a concern despite mild winter

This winter was a milder one, with less snowfall than in previous years.

But officials are warning homeowners and businesses along New Brunswick’s rivers that there is still a chance of flooding.

Randy Robinson, a retired manager of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, said flooding is caused by a combination of melting snow and heavy rainfall.

“There’s no way to prevent flooding from happening,” he said.

Randy Robinson, a retired EMO manager, said there is no way to prevent flooding. Photo: Nathan DeLong/STU Files
Randy Robinson, a retired EMO manager, said there is no way to prevent flooding. Photo: Nathan DeLong/STU Files

Robinson said citizens still need to be aware of when flooding could happen in their communities.

“So you need to know what the elevation of your property is to know if flooding might occur,” he said. 

In the Fredericton region, Robinson said, that information is kept by the city, which can provide it to residents.

He said residents should also inform themselves of the flood forecasts for their areas. Those are posted on the provincial EMO website.

“On that website, it indicates when flooding will happen,” said Robinson. 

In Fredericton, he said, most floods are open-water flooding events, which occur when the St. John River is free of ice and there is no potential for flooding caused by ice jams.

“But you still have rapidly rising water levels in response to rainfall events, as well as melting snow.”

– Randy Robinson

The dates when flooding tends to occur most often in the Fredericton area fall between April 28 and May 15.

“In the coming weeks, [the St. John River] will approach flood stage,” said Robinson. 

As of Sunday afternoon (April 10), the St. John River had reached flood watch stage at Jemseg, close to 50 kilometres downstream from Fredericton.

Twitter Screencap by Nathan DeLong/STU Files
Twitter Screencap by Nathan DeLong/STU Files

The New Brunswick EMO also tweeted a reminder to people who live along bodies of water to stay away from riverbanks, as water levels remain high and dangerous.

As well, EMO took to Twitter to advise residents against using boats or kayaks on open water where currents are fast and may be carrying debris, and the water is cold.

“EMO continues to monitor the situation across the province and reminds all [New Brunswickers] located near watercourses to ensure their safety,” the organization tweeted on Friday, April 8.

“Anyone situated close to identified watercourses should take necessary measures to protect themselves and their property from rising waters.” 

– New Brunswick EMO (via Twitter)

The river reached flood watch stage at Fredericton on Saturday, according to the EMO’s Twitter feed. Saint Hilaire, Woodstock, Maugerville, Jemseg, Grand Lake, Sheffield, Lakeville Corner, Oak Point, Saint John and Quispamsis were all still at the flood advisory stage as of then.

In Fredericton, Robinson said, the green along Waterloo Row is among the first areas to be affected. Neighbourhoods in low-lying areas on the city’s north side tend to be next, and as water levels rise, the walking trail network is impacted.

Robinson said most flooding in Fredericton is of the open-water type, as the river is free of ice and ice jams are less likely to happen. Photo: Nathan DeLong/STU Files
Robinson said most flooding in Fredericton is of the open-water type, as the river is free of ice. Photo: Nathan DeLong/STU Files

If the water gets high enough, he said, it creeps into the storm sewer system and eventually floods intersections and low-lying areas in the city.

Robinson said individuals are responsible for mitigating the hazards associated with flooding. If anything, he encouraged people to stay aware of the issue by monitoring the EMO’s flood forecasts.

“They should move equipment away from the water’s edge,” he said. “Things that are in basements or on lower-lying areas of properties need to be moved to a higher elevation.

“Things that cannot be moved need to be secured.” 

– Randy Robinson

Homeowners should also know how to have their power disconnected to mitigate damage to their electrical panels. As well, Robinson said, they should be prepared to evacuate in case they’re ordered to do so.

“You need to have a kit ready to go with things like your personal papers, prescriptions and cash,” he said. “Your vehicle should be filled with gas, too.” 

Robinson said emergency kits should have enough supplies to last at least 72 hours, but it may be five to seven days before people may be able to return to their homes and assess any damage.

“Individuals need to be aware of when the water starts to come up.” 

The electricity generated by the Mactaquac dam accounts for 12 to 20 per cent of New Brunswick's energy grid. Photo: Nathan DeLong/STU Files
Robinson said dams such as the one at Mactaquac are for generating electricity. They are not flood control structures. Photo: Nathan DeLong/STU Files

He said a common misconception is that the gates at the Mactaquac Dam and other hydroelectric facilities along the river help control flooding.

“The hydroelectric generating stations all along the river were designed to be electricity producing stations, not flood control structures,” said Robinson. “Whatever comes into the headponds must be released because the headponds are always maintained full.

“People sometimes think ‘oh, [NB Power] can just close the gates, and that will save us.’ But when you do that, you run the risk of overtopping the dam.” 

Video report by Chris Robinson