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Sussex, N.B., residents cleaning up after Thursday morning flooding

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Many residents and business owners in Sussex, N.B., are cleaning up their main floors and basements after they were flooded by heavy rainfall.

A number of streets were underwater Thursday morning and residents were advised not to travel.

Water levels in the town were greatly reduced by the afternoon.

“While the rain has ended across the province, the Town of Sussex and the surrounding region reported receiving up to 200 millimetres of rain overnight,” said Premier Blaine Higgs in a statement Thursday.

Assessing the damage

According to the premier, an emergency operations centre was mobilized Wednesday night and the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization (NBEMO) is working with provincial and municipal partners to assist the Town of Sussex.

“Once the damage has been assessed, decisions can be made if disaster financial assistance may be required for damages that could not be insured,” said Higgs.

Drone picture of flooding taken in Sussex, N.B., on Feb. 29, 2024. (Source: Facebook/Ronnie Davis)

Sussex Mayor Marc Thorne says a local seniors’ residence was also evacuated Thursday morning, with damages estimated to be in the millions.

Thorne says he had hoped the area wouldn’t receive as much rain as what was anticipated.

“We knew last night after supper that we were in serious trouble. We were hoping for a three-to-four hour pause in precipitation that the weather networks were predicting, but it never came,” Thorne said.

Holman Avenue is covered in water in Sussex, N.B., on Feb. 29, 2024.

"It's been a long day"

Cheryl Ward’s basement was among those that were flooded.

She says she is used to the flooding and was prepared for it.

Despite three sump pumps draining water from her basement, around eight inches of water got in.

“I never went to bed, I stayed up because the wind was so, so, bad,” she said. “Right now, I’ve probably been up 36 hours. It’s been a long day.”

Water rises up to the doorsteps of homes on Holman Avenue in Sussex, N.B., on Feb. 29, 2024.

Dylan Rose lives just across the street from Ward on Stewart Avenue.

He didn’t get much sleep either.

“I was up at about 2 a.m. this morning, didn’t see too much water in my basement. As soon as 3 a.m. hit, water started to flood in and probably two hours after that I had about a half foot of water in my basement,” said Rose.

Neighbour Jason Vail said the wind woke him up too.

“I looked outside and of course I knew it was raining and from 1:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. the water just went whoosh. It just got higher and higher,” said Vail.

Water rises up to the doorsteps of Sussex-area homes in New Brunswick on Feb. 29, 2024.

Flooding frustration

Many residents expressed frustration over basements flooding in their homes over the past few years.

“It happens a lot. It happens more than it should,” said Ward. “Most of the people are getting a little PO’d to be honest with you because they keep telling us something is going to happen.”

Mayor Thorne said he understands the sense of frustration and feels it himself.

He said the municipality has done what it can over the years to prevent flooding, including the building of a berm, but more needs to be done to protect the middle of the town.

Thorne said a flooding mitigation plan was submitted to the federal government, but nothing has come of it as of yet.

“We have got an engineering design in place for a $38 million project to build a diversion channel that would take the water, once it exceeds a certain level, and divert it around the town,” said Thorne.

Thorne believes some of the flooding was preventable.

“We could have mitigated a lot of the damage that took place here today, and I can promise you there’s millions of dollars in damage here,” said Thorne.

Plans for natural disasters

Public Safety Minister Kris Austin and local MLA Tammy Scott Wallace met with flood victims before Austin and Thorne held a press conference at the town’s fire hall.

Austin said he’s met with Ottawa in relation to mitigation plans for natural disasters.

“It has to be a federal initiative, but it is something we can certainly work with them on. And I know the mayor has expressed frustration too and I understand that frustration,” said Austin.

Austin was asked about creating solutions to prevent incidents like Thursday’s flooding from happening again.

“The cost of mitigation is high,” said Austin. “But if we can put the measures in place before these storms hit then it’s not only about cost, it’s about the livelihoods of these people. They’re bailing their basements out time and time again.”

Austin highly recommends people start taking pictures and make a ledger of all damages in their homes.

The town says the provincial Emergency Management Organization is in the process of assembling emergency recovery management teams.

Information and links to register for flood recovery assistance will be sent out once details are determined.

Dumpsters will also be placed on impacted streets for residents who need to dispose of flood-soiled household items.

Heavy rain not limited to Sussex

The impact of the heavy rain was not limited to Sussex, according to the premier.

“Washouts and low-level flooding on secondary roads and wind leading to power outages in several areas across the southern half of the province.”

In his statement, Higgs said New Brunswickers are known for caring for one another in times of need.

“To those affected, I want you to know we will continue to do everything we can to assist and support you,” he said.

The province will open a phone line for reporting damages in the coming days so flood victims can apply for potential disaster financial assistance.

Click here for a photo gallery of flooding images.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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