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Several Ontario communities grappling with floods as rivers rise

Staff writers
April 21, 2013 — Several communities remained in a state of emergency on Sunday as floodwaters remained high.

The flooding has forced hundreds of people from their homes.
The flooding has forced hundreds of people from their homes.

Residents of Ontario's cottage country remain on high alert as they struggle to cope with rising floodwaters.

At least seven communities declared a state of emergency between Friday and Sunday afternoon, including the city of Kawartha Lakes and the towns of Huntsville and Bracebridge.

"It's an extreme event for us, one that we haven't seen before," Huntsville Mayor Claude Doughty told the Weather Network Sunday. "It was certainly a nervous period for us the last couple of days because the water levels were unprecedented."

Heavy rain across the region late last week has left rivers and lakes swollen.

The rising waters have washed out some roadways and forced the shutdown of dozens more, including a section of Highway 11 in Huntsville.

Doughty said more than a hundred people in the Huntsville region have had to leave their homes as a result of flooding, more than in similar past events.

It's more than we've done in the past," he said. "There are some areas that are now flooded that typically aren't flooded when we have an event like this."

Huntsville, along with Kawartha Lakes and Bracebridge, warned residents Saturday to brace for increased water levels into Sunday.

"At this point in time, everyone's evacuated out of harm's way," Doughty said. "We're waiting for the crest of the river to go through, and then we'll be dealing with ... the repercussions."

Water levels remain high

Crews have fanned out across the affected municipalities, aiding in sandbagging high-risk areas, along with volunteers.

In Kawartha Lakes, residents along parts of the Burnt, Black and Gull river watersheds were advised to leave their homes, although spokeswoman Brenda Stonehouse said it wasn't known how many had done so.

She added at least three families trapped in their homes were being moved out by boat, with firefighters checking on residents in the affected area.

In Bracebridge, officials said the worst was expected to hit late Sunday or early Monday.

The weekend's cooler, dryer weather has helped limit the swell, but water levels in that community are still high.

"The main flow, or the peak flow, is not anticipated to make its way through the system and hit Bracebridge until late tonight," Deputy Mayor Rick Maloney said Sunday.

Low lying areas near the junction of the Muskoka River's north and south branches have been the most affected. A bridge over the Black River has been washed out, wile another over the Big East River in Huntsville is under threat.

Water levels on several rivers remain high, disrupting travel.
Water levels on several rivers remain high, disrupting travel.

Several roads washed out

The town of Bancroft, which also declared a state of emergency, said in a statement Sunday morning that while water levels seemed to have stabilized, they could begin rising again.

Huntsville resident Randy Brandt told the Weather Network the flooding was the worst he'd seen.

"It's come up pretty bad, and the highways look like they're getting pretty washed out," he said. "Fifty years here, and I've never seen it this bad before."

Area resident Melissa Hall said the floodwaters had disrupted road communications so badly, she had to get around by kayak at one point.

"It's actually mind-boggling to see the flood, how it's just taken over," she told the Weather Network.

People in all affected communities are being warned to stay clear of open rivers, creeks and rivers.

A sinkhole that opened up on Highway 11 near North Bay disrupted traffic while, near Shelburne, severe thunderstorms produced an EF1 tornado, the first twister of the season in Canada.

Tune in to The Weather Network on TV for news on the situation. You can also track active weather with satellite and radar maps.

The communities that are known to be under a state of emergency include:

  • Town of Bancroft
  • City of Kawartha Lakes
  • Township of South Algonquin
  • Town of Bracebridge
  • Town of Huntsville
  • Haliburton County
  • Markstay-Warren

With files from the Canadian Press.

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