Eastern Ontario communities reeling as Ottawa River hits historic high

OTTAWA — Lynne Lavictoire wants to go home. The only way she can get anywhere near it is by boat.

For the time being, she’s set up at a hotel where she is praying her home in La Passe, Ont. — along the Ottawa River — is salvageable.

“I’ve got to say my biggest fear is that my house is going to cave in,” she said.

“All I can say is ’Don’t flow over my sandbags because literally my house will cave in. It can’t withstand it.”

If Lavictoire can save her house, it is debatable if she can live in it again due to worry of mould and mildew.

She’s not prepared to say goodbye to her property — she describes it as “paradise.”

“I love the water,” she said. “I love my peace; I love my quiet.”

Two years ago, Lavictoire faced flooding and had to put up sandbags on her property.

She now estimates there are about 5,000 bags in place for this flood, built up like a fortress around her home.

When she left at the end of April, she was in tears.

“I cried, and I all could think is ’I want to go home,” she said. “’I just want to go home.’”

Thousands of sandbags may not be enough, however, to hold back the force of the Ottawa River and its historic levels.

Soldiers with the Canadian Armed Forces have been working to try and save homes in eastern Ontario communities that have declared states of emergency due to historic water levels in some areas.

Laurentian Valley Mayor Steve Bennett said Sunday that about 40 military members continue to work in his township, along with provincial officials, as hundreds of residents contend with flooding.

Bennett said his township, located along the Ottawa River south of Pembroke, Ont., declared a state of emergency at the end of April but sandbagging efforts continue.

The experience has been “very straining” for everyone including office staff, road crews and volunteers, he said.

“It is tough to watch these residents fighting for their homes,” Bennett said.

The cleanup is going to be massive, he added.

“I’m not thinking about that right now,” he said, noting the focus now is protecting residents. “We’ll get through it.”

Nearby Pembroke also remains in a state of emergency, as does the City of Ottawa.

The nation’s capital made the declaration on April 25, which prompted assistance from the province and the Canadian Armed Forces.

David Fraser, an emergency management volunteer with the Canadian Red Cross said Sunday his organization will support communities and assess the needs of the families and individuals impacted by the flooding.

The first wave of volunteers is usually from the area, he said, adding others can be called in from elsewhere as they need to be replaced.

“That is definitely one of the strengths of the Red Cross is that we have volunteers that are trained to deploy into situations like this … right across the country,” he said.


Floodwaters from the Ottawa River cover Pembroke Waterfront Park as Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Fire Rangers cross a wall of sandbags after deploying a pump at the park’s washroom facilities in Pembroke, Ont., Saturday, May 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

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Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press