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Residents along Saint John River told to remain on alert as floodwaters rise
FREDERICTON -- As floodwaters appear to stabilize in Fredericton and the northern reaches of the Saint John River, emergency officials are still casting a wary eye toward southern areas of the province where residents are being warned to remain on alert.
Greg MacCallum, director of New Brunswick's Emergency Measures Organization, told a news briefing Monday the latest flood forecast for the Fredericton area was encouraging.
"The waters here in this area are stabilizing," said MacCallum. "I'm not going to be so bold as to say this is as high as water gets, but it is certainly encouraging in this area to see that at least the rapid rise of water is abating somewhat."
Still, MacCallum warned that it wasn't time for anyone to "let their guard down" with waters continuing to rise in areas south of Fredericton and along the river to the City of Saint John.
"The river will remain very high for a number of days and in some areas it has not reached the heights it will attain in all likelihood," he said. "We are characterizing the river here (Fredericton) as stabilized, but it's still dynamic and changing and levels continue to rise further south."
Jasmin Boisvert, a water resources specialist with the provincial Environment Department, said floodwaters in the northern upper reaches of the river should begin to hit peak levels on Tuesday before dropping the rest of the week.
Boisvert said the communities of Clair, Fort Kent and Saint-Hilaire had slightly surpassed the flood stage, while Edmundston was expected to do the same on Tuesday.
He said residents who live along the river in southern areas would have to remain on alert.
"We are expecting that the flooding in the lower Saint John River basin from Fredericton down to Saint John will continue for at least the next five days," said Boisvert. "So far it looks like water levels in the lower basin could approach and even exceed levels seen in 2008, but so far it is not looking likely they will exceed the levels of last year in 2018."
But Boisvert cautioned that outlook depended on the weather, "which can always change."
Fredericton's highest flood was in 1973, with the second highest in 2008, and the third highest in 2018. Last year's rapid melt and two late snowstorms resulted in major flooding.
MacCallum said about 200 soldiers from Canadian Forces Base Gagetown had been dispatched to help residents cope, while sandbag stations had been set up across the province.
He noted the level of readiness this year as opposed to last.
"Experience is a good teacher and this year I think that kind of manifested itself in the degree of preparations that we saw."
The Red Cross said it had set up a reception spot at Centre Communautaire Saint-Anne in Fredericton for those who are considering leaving their home because of flooding. An official said 198 people had registered with the organization in the Fredericton area, although none had used the overnight accommodations set up at Sainte-Anne.
Meanwhile, the rising floodwaters have forced the closure or partial closure of at least 44 roads across the province.
- By Keith Doucette in Halifax