Snow helps slow flooding in Ontario cottage country as water levels beat record
The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, April 27, 2019 1:50PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, April 27, 2019 5:00PM EDT
The late-season snow brought some relief to Ontario's cottage country on Saturday, slowing the flow of rising floodwaters that prompted several communities to declare emergencies -- but officials are not declaring victory just yet.
Water levels in the Township of Minden Hills continue to rise, while in nearby Bracebridge the surging floodwaters have reached "historical" proportions, the mayors of those communities say.
The cooler weather also helped stem the flow in Huntsville, Mayor Scott Aitchison said, but the community continues to see high levels of water that aren't abating as quickly as they have during past floods
"There is just a tremendous volume of water through our four-lake system and all the rivers, and it continues to remain high," he said in an interview.
"And we're thinking that it will continue to be as high as it is for probably another week or so."
From the Acadian Peninsula to Ontario's cottage country, many communities are grappling with rising waters and several have declared states of emergencies. The flooding has prompted Ottawa to deploy soldiers to help with sandbagging and other flood relief efforts in hard-hit areas.
Huntsville Minden Hills and Bracebridge all declared emergencies over the past week due to the flooding.
Minden Hills received half the precipitation it expected while the colder weather has helped to slow the flow of water into lakes, rivers and streams, said its mayor Brent Devolin.
"I'm cautiously optimistic ... we're not done yet, we haven't peaked," he said in an interview. "But the water levels that we were afraid of coming at this point are more stable."
Water levels in the town of roughly 1,200 people have not reached the level of the devastating floods the region dealt with in 2013, he said.
"We're on the cusp of that, and that's the worrying part," Devolin said.
Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith, however, said in terms of water flow and impact on residents, the recent bout of flooding sets a new record.
"It's safe to say what we are dealing with right now is a historical event.... Putting it in context of 2013, this is now its own animal," he said.
Smith said in a press conference Saturday that water levels in several areas are up slightly due to Friday's rainfall. Snow was a welcome sight as it acts as a "sponge" for some of the water on the ground, Smith added.
Mary Lake, a major lake north of the community has crested, but water levels continue to rise, signalling that outflow is going up and headed towards Bracebridge, he said.
Meanwhile, water flow in the north branch of the Muskoka River at Port Sydney was measured Saturday morning at 259 cubic metres per second -- above the previously recorded high of 228 cubic metres per second, Smith told reporters.
He said he didn't have precise numbers as to how many homes and residents have been affected thus far. However, Smith estimated that it was "likely higher" than the 1,000 permanent residents and 1,000 seasonal properties affected during the 2013 floods given the larger extent of flooding at the mouth of the river.
Smith urged seasonal homeowners to refrain from checking in on their properties.
"You must wait," he said. "Simply put, we don't want you putting yourself in danger."