Bracebridge, Ont. declares state of emergency as floods persist and water levels rise
CTV News Toronto
Published Wednesday, April 24, 2019 10:25AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 24, 2019 7:02PM EDT
The town of Bracebridge has declared a state of emergency as the area continues to grapple with widespread flooding.
Water levels in the Muskoka River have been rising steadily over the past few days and peaked over the weekend. Localized flooding has washed out a number of roads in low lying areas.
The town activated its emergency plan Tuesday afternoon on the advice of the Ministry of Natural Resources.
“We’re seeing (water) levels that are close to the (floods in) 2013 or exceeding it, which was a pretty big moment for us and caused a lot of trouble for a lot people,” Mayor Graydon Smith said. “We’re concerned it could get a little bit worse from here and are taking appropriate measures.”
Smith said the town so far has been spared “for the most part,” but some areas have been hit hard, such as Springdale Shores where residents are being advised to evacuate.
People living between 1094 and 1160 Springdale Shores, 10 and 118 Cedar Shores, and on Holiday Park Drive are all being recommended to evacuate.
Emergency crews will be going door-to-door in the neighbourhood, located along the North Branch Muskoka River, to check on residents and help them leave their homes safely. Power is expected to be shut off in the area either today or tomorrow.
“We want to be clear to them that the situation they’re in is not a good one,” Smith told reporters at a morning news conference.
“Don’t assume that the situation occurring today will necessarily be the situation that’s occurring tomorrow. If you’re in an area that’s flooding or has flooded previously, you should be aware that this is likely to carry on and it could get worse.”
Additional resources have been made available to ensure residents’ safety and help those directly impacted. Community groups have rallied at the Bracebridge Memorial Arena, which is being used as a staging area, and will ensure anyone displaced by the floods have a place to go.
Smith said it is “premature” to say what exactly is needed from the province as the situation remains fluid. He said the town will exhaust its own resources and look to its mutual aid agreements with other municipalities before calling in provincial aid.
Premier Doug Ford, who was on hand for Smith’s news conference on Wednesday morning, said the province will “spare no resources” to support the area as needed.
“We’re here to observe, not to interfere,” he said.
“We’re going to first let the mayor decide what he needs, and if there are any resources (needed), we will accommodate that once the request comes in.”
More rain is in the forecast for Bracebridge and much of cottage country over the next few days, which is likely to exacerbate the flooding.
Unlike the flood in 2013, which Smith described as “fast and furious,” the current conditions have escalated steadily over four days, allowing the town to organize and update residents.
The decision to declare a state of emergency was made to emphasize the severity of the developing situation.
“Part of the reason we declare a state of emergency is so that people know that this is a serious situation and that they take appropriate measures,” he told CP24 earlier Wednesday. “Also, I think it allows us an opportunity when this is all said and done to be talking with the province about whether there’s any restorative funding for either individual or municipal infrastructure that may get damaged.”
The town expects water levels to continue to rise at the north and south branch of the Muskoka River, and Lake Muskoka. The levels in the Black River have begun to subside.
Huntsville, Ramara Township, Muskoka and Simcoe County have also been trying to keep floodwaters at bay.
Residents are being advised to take measures to mitigate the effects of flooding on their property and monitor regular updates being provided by the town.
Drivers should heed road closure signs, the town said, as a number of major roadways have been closed due to floodwaters.
Town officials say they are monitoring the situation closely.
“Their (residents) personal safety is paramount… All people need to do is call,” Smith said.
The Township of Minden Hills has also declared a state of emergency due to rising water level and a flood warning has been issued for Parry Sound.