The St. John River continues to swell in the southern half of the province, while emergency officials warn that flooding could get worse in the coming days.
The flooding has now moved into its second week, displacing hundreds of residents. More evacuations were underway Friday in the river’s lower basin, and the water likely won’t recede for several days.
“The water is rising downriver from Fredericton, communities in southern New Brunswick should expect water levels to reach historic highs over the coming days,” said Shawn Berry, spokesperson for the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization.
“The areas impacted could include at risk areas that have never experienced flooding in the past,” Berry said.
Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement that’s in effect for New Brunswick this weekend.
Another weather system will approach the region late Sunday evening. Environment Canada said between 10 and 20 millimeters of rain is possible for the southern part of the province.
This comes after New Brunswick saw up to 30 mm of rain and scattered thundershowers over central areas overnight.
“Due to the generally saturated soil conditions for most of the province, and remaining snowpack in the northern part of the province, last night’s rainfall and the additional rain expected Sunday night could cause water levels to rise or at least stay constant into early next week,” the weather agency said in a statement.
Water levels in Saint John reached a record 5.43 metres on Friday, and they’re expected to hit 5.9 metres by Monday, according to the province’s five-day forecast.
About 1,400 residents live in the affected Westfield Road area, some of whom have already been isolated by floodwaters.
Mike Carr, who heads the Saint John EMO, said on Friday that they were six inches away from closing all of Westfield Road. As of Friday afternoon, motorists could still leave the area by vehicle heading north through Grand Bay-Westfield.
Officials urge anyone in communities such as Grand Lake, Jemseg, Gagetown, Hampstead, Belleisle, Oak Point, Grand Bay-Westfield, Quispamsis and Saint John to be on high alert.
Water levels in Fredericton continue to hover around eight metres, or 1.5 metres above flood stage. The forecast suggests waters could begin to recede by Tuesday.
Levels in Grand Lake are expected to increase the most over the weekend, rising by almost half a metre.
As of Saturday morning, 747 people from across the province had registered with the Red Cross.
Earlier this week, Saint John issued a voluntary evacuation notice affecting about 2,000 residents in several neighbourhoods, and the province on Friday encouraged people to leave their homes before the weekend.
“Anyone who’s not acted to take necessary precautions should prepare and heed warnings from local officials, including those in at risk areas that have never experienced flooding,” Berry said.
Premier Brian Gallant announced on Thursday that the province has enlisted help from the Canadian Coast Guard during the worst spring flood in over 80 years. The coast guard has since arrived and is working with the provincial EMO.
The province said Friday six Department of Fisheries and Oceans boats and one coast guard patrol craft have been deployed in the Grand Lake area. Another patrol craft will be stationed in the lower St. John River, and a Transport Canada Dash 8 aircraft will conduct surveillance over Grand Lake.
Roads impacted by flooding
The Trans-Canada Highway between Fredericton and Moncton remains closed, and is expected to open sometime next week.
Motorists will be detoured to Route 1 at River Glade and to Route 7 at Oromocto.
Westbound traffic is being detoured to Route 1 at River Glade and eastbound traffic to Route 7 at Oromocto.
More than 140 provincial roads, bridges and culverts have been affected by flooding, including about 80 road closures.