A press conference was held on May 3 at the County of Renfrew Administration Building involving key members of the Renfrew County flood relief. From left are Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Cushman, Field Operations Manager Emergency Management Ontario Chris Pittens, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark, Warden of Renfrew County Jennifer Murphy, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry John Yakabuski, 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Kristopher Reeves and Community Emergency Management Coordinator for Renfrew County Michael Nolan. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
(Right) Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Immediate Response Unit from C Company, conduct wellness checks of residences on Edgewater Trail in Whitewater Region on May 5. (Photo Credit: Canadian Armed Forces Photo © 2019 DND-MDN Canada)
Emergency flood response continues for Renfrew County
By Patricia Leboeuf
Posted on Thursday May 9, 2019
The Canadian Armed Forces’ response to the flooding continues as the waters remain high and Renfrew County remains under a state of emergency.
“We know the situation is not over yet,” said Renfrew County Warden Jennifer Murphy at a technical briefing May 3 regarding the county’s state of emergency. “This is a marathon, ladies and gentleman, not a sprint. We are expecting waters along the Ottawa River watershed to rise again.”
At the peak of the flooding, about 150 residents were displaced from their homes and that number hovers at about 100 at the moment.
Almost 1,000 homes, a total of 580 permanent and 398 seasonal residences, were affected in the county, principally in the Whitewater Region, Horton Township and Laurentian Valley.
Though water has receded in many areas, there is the fear that once the freshet melts, it will rise again, perhaps even higher.
“This has been an extremely difficult time for our residents, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has been affected by these devastating floods, both here in the County and in all other areas of the country,” said Murphy.
As part of Operation Lentus, in Renfrew County as of May 3, there were 347 military personnel working out of three Garrison Petawawa units. Soldiers helped fill and distribute more than 1.2 million sandbags as well as patrolled for safety and helped with wellness checks.
They were accompanied by two manned Coast Guard crafts with a paramedic to check on hard-to-reach residents. Sixty-six community paramedics have worked over 792 hours of flood response, conducting 820 wellness checks and travelling over 15,000 km to do so.
“The situation in Ontario is constantly changing and we are reporting daily and responding to provincial and county priorities,” said 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Commanding Officer (3 RCR) Lieutenant-Colonel (LCol) Kris Reeves.
He is in charge of the local task force, directing troops where they are needed most.
For these soldiers, the situation is personal as Renfrew County is their home. Some have even themselves been affected by the flooding, yet they continue to prioritize their civilian neighbours.
This has been acknowledged and appreciated by members of the community who have worked side by side
with CAF members and extended their thanks with warm food and beverages.
“We are happy to be able to help in our own backyard,” said LCol Reeves.
Though the damage has been devastating for many, the community spirit remains high, confirmed Murphy.
Many people have dedicated countless hours volunteering and helping sandbag other people’s homes.
“We really do appreciate all of those good samaritans who have taken people in during this incredibly stressful time,” she said.
The water levels are estimated to fluctuate with some areas seeing more, some areas stabilizing and others receding, confirmed Micheal Nolan, Community Emergency Management Coordinator for the County of Renfrew. During the 2017 floods, the flood warnings for Renfrew County were only lifted in the first week of June and he believes 2019 will be similar.
“We can easily anticipate that we have at least another month of flood work ahead of us and we are urging residents to carefully watch the forecast and watch the conditions and not let their guard down,” said Nolan.
For Op Lentus, 2,200 soldiers have been deployed to parts of New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. On May 3, the CAF concluded its deployment in New Brunswick but continues to support Ontario and Quebec with their flooding. About 1,200 are members of 2 Canadian Mechanized Battle Group.