Record-setting spring floods assault Laval and surrounding regions

But the city appears to be learning from its 2017 experiences

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Martin C. Barry

Provincial, municipal and public safety officials in the Laval region remained on high alert this week as spring flooding – bringing together melted snow runoff from the Laurentians with days of steady rain – combined to create one of the biggest weather-related crises ever seen in Quebec and eastern Canada.

In one of several hard-hit areas in Laval – the Berge aux Quatre-Vents just off the Rivière des Mille Îles in Laval-Ouest – the City of Laval fought back against the rising surge of water invading some low-lying streets with an inflatable “Aqua-Barrier” rubber dam – with encouraging results.

Help from Aqua-Barrier

Record-setting spring floods assault Laval and surrounding regions
This Aqua-Barrier set up at the corner of 30th and 17th streets in Laval-Ouest was useful in keeping the surging waters of the Rivière des Mille Îles in their place.

Compared to the flooding in 2017, when many nearby streets were inundated and homes near the waterfront suffered extensive water damage, the Aqua-Barrier appears to have done a good job holding back the surge, while sparing many local homeowners from what would almost certainly have been a repeat of the 2017 flooding.

It all could be blamed on melting snow in mountainous regions north of the Outaouais, Laurentian, Lanaudière and Mauricie regions that created unprecedented flooding south of there. There were also massive surges on several of the province’s waterways leading into an already waterlogged corridor between the cities of Gatineau and Trois-Rivières.

Painful decisions

Part of that surge became all too obvious in the City of Laval on Thursday morning last week when civil protection officials announced that access to Île Bigras over a temporary bridge had to be suspended because of treacherously rising water levels.

Last Saturday, Laval Police chief Pierre Brochet, accompanied by several members of city council, was at the Accès community centre in Laval-Ouest for one of many briefings that were held to keep the media abreast of the ongoing situation. Brochet said the decision to evacuate was taken because access was nearly impossible by an adjoining bridge.

Necessary evacuations

It was during this briefing that Brochet announced that the city was ordering the evacuation of all persons living in the southern sector of Laval’s Île Verte. People living at addresses 64 to 93 Comtois St. were affected. In all, 22 dwellings were impacted by the order, although many more homes in other areas of Laval were also feeling the effects of the floods.

“Residents are advised that they will be compromising their security if they decide to not comply with this order, as essential emergency services will no longer be assured,” City of Laval officials said in a statement accompanying the announcement.

Double duty at 3-1-1

Record-setting spring floods assault Laval and surrounding regions
Laval Police Department director Pierre Brochet answers the media’s flood-related questions at the Accès community centre in Laval-Ouest last week.

Last week and this week, Laval’s public safety and public works employees were on alert, keeping a steady eye on the situation on a 24-hour basis, in order to catch potentially unforeseen developments before they took place. The city’s 3-1-1 public works intervention hot line was doing brisk business, taking calls from hundreds of concerned Laval residents.

The city set up a number of web-based resources for Laval residents to keep up with the changing conditions. They included a web page dedicated exclusively to the flood situation (www.inondations.laval.ca, an interactive map showing the at-risk flood zones (https://www.ville.laval.qc.ca/geo/geoweb/?config=citoyen), and social media including the City of Laval’s Facebook page and Twitter account.

Learning from last flood

As early as last weekend, meteorologists and experts in river and watershed flows were predicting that levels in the water bodies surrounding the Laval and Montreal regions would grow higher than what they were in 2017 when flooding problems last assailed the area.

In Laval, police and public safety officials created specific zones where residents were asked to plan ahead and pack some items to take with them in case an evacuation was ordered at the last minute. The city decided to establish special flood zones A – B – C and D following the floods two years ago based on partly on past flood history and current data on Laval’s flood plains.

Volunteers helped out

Last Sunday at the Accès community centre in Laval-Ouest, the city held a volunteers-recruitment drive from 9 am to 4 pm in an effort to provide training to volunteers 18 years of age and older in the filling of sandbags to create temporary dikes against the flood waters. Those participating were expected to arrive equipped with gloves, rugged footwear and shovels.

For those seeking to protect their homes and property from the rising waters, sandbags could be obtained at depots set up by the city at strategic locations in Laval, including Berge Couvrette on Bord-de-l’Eau​​ Rd. in Sainte-Dorothée, the parking lot at firehall #7 in Auteuil, Parc Berthiaume-Du Tremblay in Chomedey, the Centre communautaire Bigras on Île Bigras and the pumping station on du Parc-des-Érables St. in Auteuil. Bulk, unbagged sand could also be picked up at the Accès community centre in Laval-Ouest.