Locally, many were out to lend a hand to residents of Petawawa including Matthew Benedet, 8, a student at Valour JK-12 School in Petawawa, who helped sandbag on Victoria Street near River Road on both April 27 and 28 for several hours each day. (Photo by Tyler Benedet)
Many homes and cottages on River Drive were flooded as the water quickly rose. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Town of Petawawa firefighters help residents get back into their homes so that they can collect essentials. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Centennial Park is closed as the flooding has reached the parking lot. Waterfront areas in neighbouring Pembroke are also closed. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Soldiers from The Royal Canadian Dragoons and 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment created a sandbag barrier to the rising waters on April 29 to protect Petawawa’s water treatment plant near Black Bear Beach. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Members of 2 Combat Engineer Regiment (2 CER) assist with flood relief operations in Rockland during Operation LENTUS on April 28. (Photo by Master Corporal Donnie McDonald, 4th Canadian Division Public Affairs)
Members of 4th Canadian Division unload sandbags used to assist Constance Bay residents in barricading water during Operation LENTUS on April 29. (Photo by Master Corporal Donnie McDonald, 4th Canadian Division Headquarters Public Affairs)
Canadian Armed Forces members from 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group based at Garrison Petawawa arrived in Constance Bay to assist with flood relief operations during Operation LENTUS, on April 27. (Photo by Avr Melissa Gloude, Garrison Imaging Petawawa)
Op LENTUS: CAF assisting with flood relief efforts
By Patricia Leboeuf
Posted on Thursday May 2, 2019
Canadian Armed Forces members, including personnel from 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, are working around the clock to assist with flood relief efforts in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.
Operation LENTUS is the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) response to natural disasters in Canada. Provincial and territorial authorities are the first to respond when a major natural disaster occurs, but if they become overwhelmed, they may ask the CAF for help.
On April 19, provincial authorities in New Brunswick and Québec submitted requests for federal assistance and on April 25, the CAF received a request from the Province of Ontario as waterways continue to rise, heavily damaging roadways and properties along their shorelines.
Since that time, the number of CAF members on Operation Lentus has climbed from 1,600 to 2,200 troops deployed in the three provinces.
Where personnel are working varies according to priorities that can change rapidly.
As of publication April 30, about 1,000 were in Ontario in Constance Bay, Wilola, Rockland, Cumberland, and Grand View as well as in various municipalities in the Ottawa Valley. In Quebec, about 1,000 soldiers have been rendering aid in Gatineau, Montreal, Trois Riviere, Quebec City and the Pontiac. In New Brunswick, 200 soldiers have been working out of Island View, Fredericton, Oromocto, Grand Lake, Gagetown, and Grand Bay.
The 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment (1 RCR) left on April 25 to offer aid in the National Capital Region, notably Constance Bay and the Clarence-Rockland region, which have seen some of the worst devastation.
They were soon followed by members from The Royal Canadian Dragoons (RCD), 2 Military Police Regiment, 2nd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (2 RCHA), 2 Combat Engineer Regiment (2 CER), and 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment (3 RCR).
Several units have also disbursed personnel to help sandbag homes and offer assistance locally in Valley municipalities including the Town of Petawawa, Whitewater, Laurentian Valley and McNab/Braeside.
“We are being deployed around the province to where we will have the biggest impact,” said Captain (Capt) Dan Mazurek, Public Affairs Officer for the Immediate Response Unit.
He has confirmed that over 600 Regular and Reserve Force members have been deployed to work directly on the ground, filling sandbags and placing them around homes. The bulk of the work involves protecting houses from the rising water, while most of the evacuations in Ottawa are being done by Ottawa Emergency Services.
“People are losing their homes,” described Capt Mazurek. “(...) There are homes underwater. There are homes where you can’t even see where the river is supposed to stop.”
Yet morale has continued to be high, he noted; neighbours who have lost everything are still sandbagging to help others who have a chance. Volunteers from all over have poured in, working side by side with residents and CAF members.
“I think that the soldiers are really enjoying getting to work with Canadians and working hand-in-hand,” said Capt Mazurek.
This sentiment has been reciprocated.
“The outpouring of support from our civilian neighbours in Ottawa has been unreal,” he added, pointing out that people have been supplying snacks and warm beverages as well as sharing their tremendous gratitude for these men and women.
The length of the deployment remains unknown.
“We are completely at the mercy of Mother Nature so we are taking it day by day,” said Capt Mazurek.
The Town of Petawawa officially declared a state of emergency on April 28 at 4:30 p.m. in anticipation of the continuing rising waters and the forecasted upcoming rain. Due to the great potential for additional flooding, the declaration was made under the Emergency Management and Protection Act.
“It’s really because of the potential of what might happen with the runoff and the Ottawa River rising and things of that nature,” said Mayor Bob Sweet. “We felt it would be appropriate to put in place a state of emergency to deal with the potential crisis that may be.”
The concern is that some of the homes that were unaffected in 2017 are now at risk, particularly as the rising Ottawa River surpasses record water levels.
“It is important to put that in place so that if we need to call in on resources, we have the ability to ask for those resources as a result of the declaration,” said Sweet.
At presstime Tuesday, the town was monitoring the water levels and if need be, can call in additional resources including the CAF. Groups of personnel in uniform have already been sandbagging crucial buildings such as the water purification plant near Black Bear Beach.
Many other soldiers, as well as residents of the town, have been volunteering their time, resources and efforts in the hopes of protecting their property and that of their neighbours.
A grassroots Facebook group “Wading for Assistance” has been coordinating local efforts in Renfrew County with several hundred people offering help sandbagging, and donations of food, potable water, shelter, babysitting and petsitting. At the Petawawa Civic Centre, displaced residents can obtain potable water and other necessities.
The kindness of strangers isn’t new to the area, Mayor Sweet noted.
“People help out a lot in this community and this is no exception,” he said. “It is heartwarming to see a community react to their neighbours, neighbours that they don’t know, and go out to help.”
People requiring sandbags can contact the Public Works Department at 613-687-5536 during business hours or at 1-855-539-7610 after hours. Sand to fill sandbags is available at Risto Road, Southshore Drive, Tall Pines Road, the end of Shamess Road, Deer Run Trail and Melody Trail. The town has ordered another 20,000 or so bags to help with the growing need.
Centennial Park is closed and the Mayor is urging residents to stay away from this area as well as from any area experiencing flooding.
“Keep away from fast travelling water, particularly of the Petawawa (River), especially those bridges,” said Sweet. “There is a lot of water going down the river. It’s a very, very dangerous situation.”
At 9 a.m. April 30, the Petawawa River bridge was closed due to severe erosion along the shoreline and at the base of the structure. Petawawa Boulevard was blocked to traffic between civic addresses 3532 and 3584.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has made the Disaster Recovery Assistance for Ontarians (DRAO) available for those dealing with flooding in the County of Renfrew and City of Pembroke. Those eligible can receive financial help for 90 per cent of their eligible expenses for up to $250,000 per application with certain limits in place. Insurance payments are deducted from eligible costs and applications are subject to a $500 deductible, which may be waived for those with low-income. The application deadline is Aug. 27, 2019. For more details on this program, please visit www.ontario.ca/page/apply-disaster-recovery-assistance.