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Quebec floods recede once again

Matt Casey, staff writer

May 26, 2011 — Flood weary residents along Quebec's Richelieu River Valley continue to deal with flooding, but the river has dropped since last weekend's record levels.

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

After hitting a record high over the weekend, water levels along Quebec's Richelieu River are declining once again.

Flood waters have been soaking water-front properties in the area for weeks now. On May 6, the region was hit with some of its highest water levels in a century. Last week, strong southerly winds over Lake Champlain pushed more water from the lake northwards and into the river.

By Tuesday afternoon, water levels had dropped about 18 centimetres over 24 hours. Still, there is more rain in the forecast.

“A low pressure system from the United States could bring heavy rain and thunderstorms to southern Quebec Thursday and Friday,” says Brian Dillon, a meteorologist at The Weather Network.

A special weather statement issued by Environment Canada states that strong southerly winds affecting Lake Champlain will push water from the Lake northward and will generate waves over the upper Richelieu and Missisquoi Bay.

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 Lyndsay Morrison

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