FREDERICTON (GNB) – The following advisory was issued today by the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, River Watch 2019:

Water levels in southern regions of the province will continue to rise in the days ahead. Levels in Fredericton and northern regions are stabilizing, but are expected to remain above flood level for the rest of the week.

Residents in the following areas should remain on high alert: Clair/Fort Kent, Saint-Hilaire, Edmundston, Fredericton, Maugerville, Jemseg, Grand Lake, Sheffield/Lakeville Corner, Oak Point and Quispamsis/Saint John.

“If you live in an area that is subject to isolation because of flood, we urge you to act now to relocate,” said Greg MacCallum, director of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization (NBEMO). “Residents who choose to stay should be aware of the risks. They may not be able to access essentials like food, medicine and water for several days. It is best to make a decision to self-evacuate early. Evacuations are high-risk operations that are not safe after dark or in inclement conditions.”

MacCallum said that people should continue to be vigilant and avoid any activities on the water, as currents are still strong and there is a significant amount of debris in the water.

Respect barricades

Drivers should avoid any roads covered by water, as it represents a serious safety risk. Water may be deeper than it appears and may conceal sinkholes or other damage and debris.

Drivers are also asked to obey changes to speed limits and follow closure notices. They are not permitted to move or drive around barricades. Ignoring or moving these barricades is an offence, and offenders will be charged.

Given the scope of the flooding, not every barricade can be staffed by government employees or first responders. Whether or not barricades are staffed, they must be respected.

People who ignore barricades are putting themselves in danger. They are also endangering any first responders who may be called to assist them. Vehicles going through water can also move the water, causing wakes or other movement that can send water into homes and cause damage.

The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure is reporting 59 road closures. A list of the latest closures is available online.

The My511 mobile application allows users to receive road condition and incident notifications about highway segments they select.

Canadian Red Cross

The Canadian Red Cross has established a reception centre at the Centre Sainte-Anne, at 715 Priestman St., Fredericton. Residents who are affected by flooding and do not have access to alternative accommodations (with neighbours, friends or family) can contact the Canadian Red Cross at 1-800-863-6582. It will provide emergency essential service as an auxiliary to the provincial government. The operating hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Sandbags available

Sand and sandbags continue to be available at locations across the province for residents who require them. An updated list of locations that have sand and sandbags is available online.

Carbon monoxide and fire safety

During a flood, the risk of fire or carbon monoxide exposure is greatly increased. Residents should heed the following guidelines to stay safe:

  • Never use generators, pumps or any other fuel-powered equipment indoors.
  • Powered equipment should always be placed at least four metres away from any structure.
  • In the event of a power outage or in de-energized homes, never use carbon-based fuels (such as kerosene, gas or fuel oil) indoors to heat or cook. These appliances generate carbon monoxide.
  • Temporary heating appliances such as propane or kerosene heaters should never be used indoors as they present a fire hazard.
  • If exposed to floodwaters, carbon-based fuel equipment should be inspected by professionals before use.
  • Residents should ensure their home is equipped with functioning battery-powered smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
  • Use heating and drying equipment carefully. Keep combustible material away from devices that generate heat.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur quickly. Anyone who believes they have been affected by carbon monoxide poisoning should go outside immediately and then go to the nearest hospital or call 911.

Report issues with water  

Residents can report issues related to increased water levels or flooding at any time by calling 1-800-561-4034. In case of emergency, call 911.

For recorded River Watch water levels, people may call 1-888-561-4048.

Flood level five-day forecasts are available online for the Upper St. John River and the lower part of the St. John River.

Well safety

People with wells that are currently under floodwaters should not use their well water. If well water has a persistent odour or discolouration, or if residents believe it has been affected by chemicals such as furnace oil, gasoline or agricultural chemicals, it should not be used for any purpose, even if it has been boiled. More information about well water safety is available online.

Residents concerned about the safety of their well water should contact the nearest regional office of the Department of Environment and Local Government for further information.

Watch for wildlife on roads

Drivers are urged to watch for wildlife on roads. With water rising, some animals will be seeking higher ground as their natural territories will become covered by water. The presence of wildlife on roads should be reported to local authorities.

NBEMO fully activated

The provincial emergency operations centre, area command centre, multiple incident command posts, and regional operations centres are fully activated to co-ordinate emergency response operations as they are required.

Canadian Armed Forces support

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces are now involved and are conducting tasks in support of preparedness and response operations. About 240 members are deployed for these tasks.

NB Power

NBEMO is working closely with NB Power and the Department of Public Safety’s chief electrical inspector. If rising water contacts or is expected to contact electrical facilities, including receptacles, call 1-800-663-6272 for an emergency disconnect.

Once the water has receded, NB Power will have a reconnection process to ensure residents, their neighbours and properties are safe.

Residents should contact NB Power to disconnect power if they experience any of the following:

  • Their main electrical panel and/or meter and meter base are currently underwater or have been underwater.
  • The building may have been moved due to excessive water force or ice movement.
  • There is visible damage to electrical service equipment on the exterior of a house, like the meter, meter base, service stack or conduits and grounding conductors.
  • The water height is above the level of electrical equipment or wiring devices like receptacles, baseboard heaters, furnaces, etc. This could also apply to sewage backup.

Mould and mildew

Follow these important tips to avoid the health hazards of mould and mildew after flooding.

Immediate action is important, as houses and furnishings are less likely to grow mould if contents are dried within 48 hours of water receding.

Avoid skin contact with contaminated material. During cleanup, be sure to wear personal protective equipment, such as gloves, a mask and goggles to protect eyes, nose, mouth and skin. People should wash their hands frequently with clean warm water and soap.

It is important to use a good soap or detergent, and lots of hot water when cleaning. In order to prevent toxic fumes, do not mix cleaning products together, especially bleach and ammonia.

After cleaning, open doors and windows to air thoroughly and help the drying process.

Tips for dealing with stress in an emergency

It is normal for residents to feel anxious about their own safety during an emergency situation, even if they are not directly affected.

People react in different ways to stressful events. It is important for residents experiencing stress to talk about their feelings of sorrow, anger and other strong emotions.

If in crisis, there are several 24-hour emergency numbers that are available to help, including CHIMO helpline (1-800-667-5005); Tele-Care (811); and Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868). More information and resources are available online.

Safe food-handling

During and following a flood, affected residents should take precautions to reduce possible risks to their health by practising safe food-handling. They should be sure to carefully inspect all food items and avoid eating any food that may not be safe. Spoiled food may not look contaminated. When in doubt, throw it out.

When handling refrigerated and frozen food after a power failure, discard any thawed food that has been at room temperature for two or more hours, and any food that has an unusual colour or odour. Foods that have damaged packaging, such as packages that are crushed or dented or have deep rusting, as well as packages that have holes, leakage, punctures or swelling, should be discarded.

People should not eat any food that may have come into contact with animal waste, chemicals, floodwater, snow, ice, soil or dirt.

Baby formula containers, cardboard juice containers, home-canned foods and milk containers that have been in contact with floodwater or hazardous material should be thrown away.

Cooking and eating utensils should be cleaned of all deposits. They should be rinsed, sanitized in a mild bleach solution, and then air dried. After following these steps, utensils used for infant feeding must be boiled for two minutes before use.

Information to residents

People are reminded to:

  • Consider moving belongings to higher ground if their property is near a waterway or is in an area that is prone to flooding.
  • Avoid the banks of waterways, as they become dangerous this time of year.
  • Avoid boating, kayaking or other water activities this time of year as currents are strong and may carry debris. As well, people should stay away from the edge of the river while walking.

The River Watch program is a joint effort involving the Department of Environment and Local Government, the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization of the Department of Public Safety, and NB Power. Other partners include watershed groups, and federal, provincial and state agencies involved in monitoring and forecasting the water flow in the province's rivers and streams.

Updates on information related to the potential for flooding or ice jams, including 24/7 emergency updates, is available online.

A livestream of today’s media event will be available online.