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'We just hope this makes a difference': Volunteers spend Easter packing sandbags in Ottawa

Pierre Grandbois spent the last three days preparing his grandparents’ two-storey home in Crystal Bay for the worst, the memory of the 2017 flood that struck the National Capital Region still fresh in his mind. His grandparents, who winter in Florida, are driving back to Ontario now, and he wants them to return to a home above water.

Back in 2017 the basement of the home flooded with five feet of water causing about $30,000 in electrical damage. Grandbois is determined to not let that happen again.

Sitting on the edge of the Ottawa River, across from Aylmer, the house is about 25 meters from the water, for now. Water levels in the area are expected to peak April 29, with the river 30 centimetres higher than it is today.

“I’m feeling pretty optimistic,” Grandbois said between lugging sandbags to the nearly completed sandbag wall surrounding the home, wrapped in a layer of plastic. A sump pump is ready to spur into action in the basement if things do go downhill. “Better safe than sorry. Preparing extra is worth it.”

At Barry Mullen Park, about 30 volunteers from all over Ottawa gathered to fill sandbags for locals to use to safeguard their homes.

Derek Pickell and Ken Lloyd started volunteering at around 10 a.m. and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

“It’s been a tough year,” Pickell said, referring to the tornado that hit the National Capital Region in September 2018, and this year’s long and brutal winter. “I get the sense that people are more confident this time. We just hope this makes a difference.”

Siming Yuan came all the way from Kanata to pitch in and plans on staying as “long as it’s needed.”

“You’re living in the community, be part of the community, do something for the community,” he said.

The city is seeking volunteers tomorrow as well, in numerous locations:

Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA)

  • Constance and Buckham’s Bay Community Centre at 262 Len Purcell Drive
  • Ron Kolbus Centre at 102 Greenview Drive from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Highway 174 and Morin Road from 8 a.m. to. 6 p.m

There are about 20 locations where the city is deploying sand and sandbags.

Ottawa received 35.4 mm of rain on Friday and another 6 mm on Saturday. Less than 15 mm is projected to fall in the next week however a flood warning is still in effect until Monday.

According to the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority’s latest models, released Sunday afternoon, the water levels will not reach the heights of May 2017, but there is rain expected over the northern portion of the watershed that could impact this area.

“Water levels from Britannia to Cumberland are expected to increase an additional 0.40 m above the current elevation over the next seven days,” says the RVCA.

This forecast is still 0.25 meters below the peak levels of May 2017.


There are a number of roads in the region being impacted by flooding:

  • In the city the eastbound lanes of Heron Road are reduced from Prince of Wales to Riverside Drives
  • In Cumberland, Highway 174 is closed from Cameron Road to Old Montreal East Road
  • Leo Lane, Boisé Lane and parts of Armstrong and Morin roads are closed
  • March Valley Road is closed from Cameron Harvey Drive to Klondike Road
  • Vances Side Road is closed from Torbolton Ridge Road to Woodkilton Road
  • Torbolton Ridge Road is closed from Kinburn Side Road to Kilmaurs Side Road
  • Mohrs Road is closed from Galetta Side Road to Riddledale Road
  • Bearhill Road is closed from Vaughan Side Road to March Road

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