Alexandra Pope, staff writer
May 29, 2011 — The flood-hit Richelieu Valley is once again being buffeted by wind and rain -- but as water levels continue to rise, the province is already planning ahead for cleanup.
It's the last thing residents along the Richelieu River south of Montreal want to see--more rain and strong southerly winds.
On the heels of a slow-moving system that brought 50 mm of rain to parts of the eastern townships last week, a warm, unstable air mass is tracking through the province, bringing an additional 20 to 30 mm of rain and thunderstorms with heavier downpours.
Water levels in the Richelieu Valley are expected to rise up to 15 cm by the end of the weekend -- not as high as the record levels hit earlier this month, but high enough to take a toll on water-weary residents.
Addressing reporters Saturday, Québec Premier Jean Charest expressed his sympathy for the flood victims.
“No one expected this to last five weeks. No one expected a flood that would bring as much damage as the one we have now,” he said. “We are aware of the fact that all of this has an impact on the morale of the people.”
Charest said the government's first priority is preventing any loss of life from the slowly unfolding disaster. However, he added the province is already preparing for when the floodwaters finally recede.
“We're looking at how to assess the damage to property, how to clean up and evaluate the flood zone so we can offer people a secure place to live,” he said.
Last week, Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay ordered an additional 250 reserve forces soldiers into the region. That brings the total number of soldiers in the area to around 500.
More than 3,000 homes have been damaged and 1,000 people evacuated since flooding began last month.
With files from Matt Casey