Residents of Quebec town unfazed by prospect of heavy rains

Residents of Quebec town unfazed by prospect of heavy rains

Christian Montigny steers his boat past his flooded house, left, on the shores of Lake St-Pierre in Yamachiche, Que. on Thursday, May 11, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson.

YAMACHICHE, Que. — Christian Montigny’s two-storey home in the central Quebec town of Yamachiche is normally a lakefront cottage — but now it’s become an island.

When the floods began in early April, the 61-year-old was able to get home in his truck, then later in a four-wheeler. For the last three weeks, however, he’s had to use a motorboat — and authorities are warning worse weather is yet to come.

But despite a local state of emergency and a forecast calling for heavy rain on the weekend, Montigny, like many other Yamachiche residents, believes the waters are receding.

“I don’t put much faith in weather forecasts,” he said in an interview Thursday.

As he navigated his boat through the debris-filled water and past a piece of his neighbour’s balcony, Montigny pointed to a line on the trees that showed the water has already gone down several centimetres.

“Even if it rains, I don’t think it will go up as much as they say,” he said.

As flood waters elsewhere in the province begin to recede, authorities remain on high alert in the Mauricie region, which includes Yamachiche.

On Thursday, the province’s environment minister told a news conference the region could receive up to 59 millimetres of rain by next Monday, threatening to raise water levels in already flooded communities.

In Yamachiche, Canadian soldiers were present on the ground Thursday, helping residents to shore up their homes as best as possible.

A group of troops floated sandbag-laden rafts out to the homes, hopping out into hip-deep water to pile them against doors and walls.

One resident, France Bellemare, said she has nearly two metres of water in her basement, with only 30 centimetres separating it from the first floor.

But despite the politicians’ warnings and the threat of much greater damages if the water rises, Bellemare isn’t panicking.

“The weather is calm, we don’t have any waves,” she said. “It’s going down. Everyone is alarmed. But we shouldn’t be, because the river is in our favour.”

Another resident, Claude Buisson, seemed equally unconcerned by the forecast.

“They’re announcing it could rise by another 20 to 40 centimetres but we’re hoping it won’t be as much as that,” he said as he loaded sandbags into a canoe.

Bellemare and the other residents living along Lake Saint-Pierre say they deal with flooding every few years, but that this is the worst they have seen.

Tides, melting snow and heavy rains mean they’ve been under water for more than a month — the longest and worst floods since the 1970s, they say.

Their homes are surrounded by gravel and sandbags and some have set up plywood barricades as a buffer against the waves.

Montigny says the homes are built with flooding in mind, meaning they’re likely to be spared the worst structural damage.

Unlike many of his neighbours, Montigny doesn’t have a pump running.

“You can’t pump out the whole lake, it’s impossible,” he noted. “Look how much water there is.”

All agree there isn’t much more they can do, even if the water does rise.

Residents like Bellemare and Montigny are still living in their homes, donning chest-high waders and then boating from their homes to the road, where their vehicles are parked.

Montigny says he has no intention of evacuating.

“You’d have to take me out in handcuffs” he noted.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
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