Event Report

Deatils of Situation Update

Flood in Canada on Sunday, 25 March, 2012 at 17:31 (05:31 PM) UTC.


Updated: Sunday, 25 March, 2012 at 17:34 UTC
A "March heat wave" that sparked an unusually early spring thaw and triggered an ice jam along the St. John River is to blame for severe flooding in western New Brunswick. Two weeks of continuous melting to the St. John River's tributaries, coupled with an overwhelming ice jam, led to the river bursting its banks and forcing much of the region under water. "The ice jam is definitely the cause of the flooding in that area," Karl Wilmot, river watch co-ordinator for the province's Emergency Measures Organization, said. "The melt that we have experienced over the last two weeks is at a minimum of two weeks ahead (of schedule)." He said the optimal situation at this time of year is a gradual melt with what has become known as maple syrup weather, which brings daytime highs above freezing and temperatures below freezing during the night. "Once the temperatures start to drop, it's like shutting off a tap in your kitchen," he said. "The water stops going into the tributaries and into the St. John River at the volume it was during daylight hours when it was melting fully." But New Brunswick, for more than a week, had a continuous melt and with that, came higher-than-normal volumes of water for this time of year.

The recent weather that swept through Central and Eastern Canada was described by David Phillips, Environment Canada's senior climatologist, as a March heat wave - as though spring was skipped altogether and the seasons jumped straight to summer. The warm weather has fast-tracked the spring thaw in areas such as northern New Brunswick where there is still ice and snow. "The ice covers broke and in a lot of cases, they didn't cause any problems and floated on down the river and everything was fine," Wilmot said. "In this case, the ice hung up and water started backing up behind it." Had there been significant rainfall in recent days, he said, the flooding would have been worse. Meanwhile, with floodwaters still covering much of downtown Perth-Andover - about 175 kilometres northwest of Fredericton - the New Brunswick government says it's too early to talk about damage assessments and compensation. Public Safety Minister Robert Trevors, who is monitoring the situation from Fredericton, said officials are focused on helping individuals and families displaced by the rapid flooding Friday that forced the evacuation of the village's riverside homes, institutions and businesses. Trevors said damage assessments would have to wait. "We're still making sure everyone is safe and cared for . . . that's the main priority now. We have teams ready to get to work the minute the water levels drop enough that we can get an evaluation of the extent of the damage."