Armed forces in Bracebridge, Ont., to help battle rising floodwaters

BRACEBRIDGE, Ont. — Members of the Canadian Armed Forces have arrived in a small town in central Ontario’s cottage country that’s grappling with record floodwaters, where soldiers will help with sandbagging and other relief efforts.

Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith says he put in a call for military help on Saturday, as forecasters predicted roughly 25 millimetres of rain next Wednesday.

“While we’re expecting things to come down in portions of the watershed over the next few days … Wednesday could throw a bit of wrench into it,” Smith told reporters Sunday morning.

Lt.-Col. Graham Walsh told the same press conference that a group of reservists based in the Toronto area will deploy a total 60 soldiers to assist with emergency efforts in Bracebridge.

Thirty soldiers were already on site with the remainder to follow, he added, and their immediate plan was to help with sandbagging.

Bracebridge is one of several communities north of Toronto, including Huntsville and Minden Hills, that have declared emergencies due to flooding.

Smith has said his town is dealing with a flood of “historical” proportions, with both higher water levels and more homes and residents affected than during the devastating floods of 2013.

“If you go down and look at the Bracebridge Falls area, we’ve got a dam where the water is going straight over the top of it, and infrastructure that we built after 2013 … that’s completely submerged.”

He told reporters on Sunday that roughly 27,000 sandbags have already been distributed in the community, and he expected the flood conditions to linger for “several more days.”

“We’re monitoring future weather closely, and hopeful that precipitation is minimal over the next week and that the system has a chance to flush itself out,” Smith said.

He said the rushing water is moving incredibly fast, and urged people not to drive on closed roadways, while noting that people have been seen on Jet Skis and in a boat near the mouth of the river.

In addition to the danger due to what Smith called a “massive amount of debris” in the surging waters, those “touring around” were hampering sandbagging efforts, he said.

“There were people down there actively trying to sandbag their properties and then they had to deal with the wake off these watercrafts…. That’s unacceptable,” he said.

In nearby Minden Hills, Mayor Brent Devolin said the water levels remain high but sub-zero temperatures overnight helped to stabilize the flooding.

Like Bracebridge, the forecast calls for more rain by Wednesday or Thursday, but Devolin said he is not expecting to require help from the Forces.

“We’ll continue to watch and monitor, and obviously those people in those flooded areas should continue to be diligent … but I feel better than I did a couple of days ago,” he said.

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