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Quebec flooding reaches record levels

Matt Casey, staff writer

May 24, 2011 — Flood weary residents along Quebec's Richelieu River Valley continue to deal with more flooding as the river swells to new record levels.

Quebec's Richelieu Valley is not out of flood danger yet
Quebec's Richelieu Valley is not out of flood danger yet

There just doesn't seem to be an end in sight to the surging water levels on Quebec's Richelieu River. Over the past weekend levels swelled to new records, surging between 8 and 20 cm along the river since Sunday. Levels have surpassed a crest that took place on May 6 which saw some of the highest water levels in over a century.

Strong southerly winds over Lake Champlain have been pushing more water from the lake northwards and into the river.

On Monday night, Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced that an additional 250 reserve forces soldiers are heading into the region to assist with flood relief efforts. This comes after Quebec Premier Jean Charest requested more military assistance over the weekend. The total number of soldiers in the area is now around 500. Charest says the flooding in southern parts of the province is unprecedented and no one water predicted levels would surge once again to even higher levels than the May 6 crest.

Levels reaching highest records in over a century
Levels reaching highest records in over a century

At one time, around 800 troops were on the ground helping with sandbagging and assisting residents. But as water levels began to decline, so did the number of soldiers in the region.

More than 3,000 homes have been flooded and 1,000 people have been evacuated from their homes. Some people have been displaced for since the flooding started last month.

The strong winds are expected to slowly ease through the day today. Meteorologist Elena Grigorenko says the wind gusts will drop through the afternoon and the wind direction will eventually change.

“Winds were gusting to around 40 km/h this morning, but this afternoon they will change to a more northerly direction. Sustained winds will be around 30-40 km/h.”

Flood forecasters in the region say they expect water levels will drop quickly by Wednesday once the winds ease and change direction.

Yvan Leroux, Quebec's regional director of civil security service says concern is rising over how the flooding is affecting the mental health of residents in the area. Leroux says health officials and counselling services are available to help victims cope with the disaster. Authorities in the region have also started offering precautionary tetanus shots for affected residents. However, flooding has not caused any major health risks.

With files from The Canadian Press and the Vancouver Sun

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