Montreal officials work to stay ahead of potential spring floods
Younes Malki’s family home in Pierrefonds-Roxboro was spared when the Rivière des Prairies overflowed in 2017, but he remembers how awful it was for many of his neighbours.
“It was just complete flooding here,” he said, standing on the steps of the house where he’s lived for 13 years, as he pointed toward de Gaulle Street, a block south of the river.
“So many houses were touched. It was crazy, unbelievable.”
Malki was one of several Pierrefonds-Roxboro residents who received a visit from the borough’s mayor, Dimitrios Jim Beis, Tuesday.
Beis went door to door with police officers and members of the local fire department, handing out emergency kits, distributing flood preparation pamphlets and making sure anyone who lives near the waterfront has a three-day plan in the event their neighbourhood floods this spring.
“First of all, it’s how to protect their home and belongings,” Beis told CBC. “We distribute sand bags. We’ve even created videos on how to protect your home and your basement windows … how to protect important documents.”
By being proactive, Beis says Pierrefond-Roxboro avoided the worst in 2019, protecting “almost 95 per cent” of the area’s homes during an April flood that saw at least a dozen houses evacuated. In 2017, Beis estimates close to 1000 homes were damaged, and since then, the door-to-door campaign has become an annual event.
Beis says the borough and the city are also on high alert, monitoring water levels there and upstream every day. The public works department has sandbags, pumps and temporary dikes stored and ready to go, and there’s a plan in place detailing how and where to install them if they’re needed.
“We’re on standby,” said Beis. “We know specifically where to intervene when the water reaches certain levels.”
Beis is also working with municipal and provincial officials to try to help people who still haven’t recovered from the floods in 2017 and 2019.
He hopes to persuade the city and the province to take another look at their flood maps, taking into consideration new infrastructure and safety measures that have helped reduce the risk of flooding. Beis said it would give some families and businesses a break on insurance and boost their property values.
‘Period of anxiety’: Coun. Alain Vaillancourt
On the other side of the island, the Montreal executive committee member in charge of public security, Coun. Alain Vaillancourt, also went door to door today, passing on the same emergency preparedness information to people living in Pointe-aux-Trembles.
“Those living by the river, it’s a period of anxiety for them to see the river rise and potential flooding,” said Vaillancourt.
“So we’re here to reassure Montrealers that we’re ready: all our teams are in place; all the resources have been put forward,” he said, ” and to sensitize them too, to what potentially is coming.”
Beis says the pamphlet designed in Pierrefonds-Roxboro has become a useful tool for other municipalities and boroughs that face the same risks, and flood preparation is “a concerted effort.”
Officials in Île Bizard and other communities on the river, including Montréal-Nord, Ahuntsic-Cartierville and Rivière-des-Prairies, are all working together to stay on top of potential risks and be ready to act as quickly as possible.
“Right now the water levels are relatively stable,” said Beis. “However, that can change on a moment’s notice.”