Quebec Flooding

30 April 2019 - Update

The JBA event response team produced an initial report (below) on 24 April with details of the flooding at time of writing, as well as a flood footprint. Below is an event commentary as of 30 April. 

Six days on from our initial event commentary, flooding has continued to affect thousands of people across Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. Flooding from the melting of snowpacks has been worsened by moderate rainfall (see Figure 1). The event has impacted flood mitigation structures; on Saturday 27 April, a longstanding dike failed in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, flooding more than 2,500 homes and forcing around 5,000 residents to evacuate (Montreal Gazette, 2019). Reports state that as of Monday 29 April, more than 9,500 people have been evacuated across the Quebec province, over 6,400 homes have been flooded and another 3,508 homes have been cut off from their communities (The Telegram, 2019). Urgence Québec indicates that the risk of flooding in the province is to remain high for the next few days, but with forecasts estimating that water levels will slowly start to recede in New Brunswick (The New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organisation (NBEMO), 2019).

Figure 1: The current flooding in Canada is being driven by a combination of snowmelt and intermittent periods of moderate rainfall. Both temperature and rainfall have increased towards the end of April. Further rainfall on 26 and 27 April following our previous event commentary has only exacerbated the Spring floods. Data source: Government of Canada.

Water levels in Ottawa have broken records in several areas (CBC, 2019). At the time of writing, levels at the river gauge in Hull, Gatineau are at 45.14m, which exceeds the record set during the 2017 Quebec floods (Government of Canada, 2019).

Figure 2: An extract of the JBA Canada 30m flood footprint. The area illustrated is Ottawa in Ontario, Canada. Observed depths around Hull, the central district of the city of Gatineau, are exceeding records previously set by similar flooding in 2017. (JBA Risk Management Limited™).

In the Montreal suburb of Sainte-Anne-De-Bellevue, levels are at 24.66m, just below the current record level of 24.67m from the 2017 floods (Government of Canada, 2019). Both river gauges are indicating levels currently above the respective thresholds for a major flood classification.

At the time of writing, it is still too early to determine what the insured losses of this event might be. Around one in three Quebec homeowners are estimated to have purchased overland flood coverage; however it’s reported that the number could be much lower in areas affected by the current flood event (Canadian Underwriter, 2019). The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) does not trace which affected homes are insured and a spokesperson for the IBC suggested that those affected by the dike breach in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac were unlikely to have filed claims yet (Canadian Underwriter, 2019).

If you are interested in receiving our updated flood footprint, detailing the estimated extents and depths of the flooding in Quebec, New Brunswick and Ontario, please get in touch with our event response team.

 

Original commentary

Spring thaw and moderate rainfall has brought significant flooding to parts of Canada, with various reports of nearly 3,000 properties flooded and more than 600 isolated by floodwaters, at the time of writing. Officials warn of continued rises in water level and further melting of snowpacks. 

Many areas in Canada remain flooded due to precipitation and snowmelt, with several roads still closed and power outages identified in areas that have been flooded. The flooding so far has led to more than 1,300 people being evacuated from Quebec province, with the worst affected area being the Chaudière-Appalaches administrative region (Urgence Québec, 2019). Tragically, one elderly woman has been confirmed dead after rising waters washed out a road on which she was driving (Reuters, 2019).

The Sainte Marie river gauge on the Chaudière River reached a water level of 147.71m on the evening of Sunday 21 April; over half a metre above that of the designated level for a major flood (Ministère de la Publique, 2019). Whilst river gauge levels are indicating decreasing water levels on the Chaudière River, rainfall is forecast from Wednesday 24 April which may exacerbate current flooding. Sainte Marie has been the hardest hit area so far with 189 residences officially reported as flooded on 23 April, but news reports suggest that hundreds more have been flooded (Urgence Québec, 2019). Other areas have also been subject to flooding, including areas in the cities of Laval and Gatineau, on the Montreal and Ottawa suburbs (Urgence Québec, 2019).

 

Figure 1: Table showing the number of properties flooded and the known number of people evacuated from the Chaudière-Appalaches administrative region in Quebec. Source: Urgence Québec.

On the morning of 24 April 2019, a storm surge warning was also issued for the Quebec area, adding a further threat to additional flooding (Government of Canada, 2019). Forecasts for the remainder of the week also indicate that temperatures are to remain high enough for further snowmelt in northern Quebec near the communities of Rouyn-Noranda and Temiskaming (CBC, 2019). The federal government has begun disaster response efforts in Quebec, including the deployment of hundreds of Canadian Armed Forces to aid with sandbagging and other relief efforts (Reuters, 2019). 


Figure 2: Graph shows the average daily temperature from gauges at Quebec City and Ottawa International Airports. Temperatures have been seen to slowly increase over April, leading to increased thawing of snowpacks. This, coupled with moderate rainfall, has led to significant flooding in the Quebec region. Data source: Government of Canada.

An overview of past flood losses in Canada

As the frequency of this severe weather rises under a changing climate, so does the financial cost (Insurance Journal, 2019). Whilst there are no current reports of insured losses and damages caused by the present flooding in Canada, flood events are now considered the costliest source of property damage in the country, indicating that the natural peril has surpassed that of fire and theft as the leading source of property insurance claim (Public Safety Canada, 2015). Claims from flood damages are further expected to increase as a result of growing urban development and more extreme weather events driven by climate change (Cherqui et al, 2017; Henstra et al, 2017). The Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates that over the next five years, the federal government could spend C$3.4 billion on disaster relief (FirstSmart Canada, 2019). 

On 3 May 2017, Canadian communities in southern Quebec were flooded by a similar event. Spring meltwater and heavy rains flooded over 4,000 homes and caused more than C$223 million insured damage (FloodList, 2017). The floods were listed as the third most significant weather event of 2017 by the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographical Society (CMOS-SCMO, 2018). Whilst the catastrophic losses from 2017 totalled C$1.2 billion, this was attributed to a string of losses across the country. However, Kenn Lalonde, chair of the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) board of directors, affirms that a good portion of this C$1.2 billion in insured CAT losses was a result of water damage and flooding (Northbridge Insurance, 2018). 

JBA has produced a flood footprint for this event estimating extents and depths of flooding across Quebec. If you are interested in receiving our footprint, please get in touch with our event response team.

References

Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society. (2019). Canada's Top Ten Weather Stories 2017 - CMOS Bulletin SCMO. [online] Available at: https://bulletin.cmos.ca/canadas-top-ten-weather-stories-2017/ [Accessed 24 Apr. 2019].

CBC. (2019). Spring melt means further flooding could come | CBC News. [online] Available at: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/spring-melt-means-worst-flooding-could-still-come-1.5106731 [Accessed 24 Apr. 2019].

Cherqui, F., Belmeziti, A., Granger, D., Sourdril, A. and Le Gauffre, P. (2015). Assessing urban potential flooding risk and identifying effective risk-reduction measures. Science of The Total Environment, 514, pp.418-425.

Climate.weather.gc.ca. (2019). Historical Data - Climate - Environment and Climate Change Canada. [online] Available at: http://climate.weather.gc.ca/historical_data/search_historic_data_e.html [Accessed 24 Apr. 2019].

Floodlist.com. (2019). Canada – Spring Flooding in Ontario and Quebec Caused More Than C$223 Million in Insured Damage. [online] Available at: http://floodlist.com/america/canada-spring-floods-ontario-quebec-caused-millions-insured-damage [Accessed 24 Apr. 2019].

Floodsmartcanada.ca. (2019). FloodSmart Canada | Helping communities prepare for floods. [online] Available at: http://floodsmartcanada.ca/ [Accessed 24 Apr. 2019].

Geoegl.msp.gouv.qc.ca. (2019). Surveillance de la crue des eaux - Ministère de la Sécurité publique. [online] Available at: https://geoegl.msp.gouv.qc.ca/adnv2/ [Accessed 24 Apr. 2019].

Henstra, D. and Thistlethwaite, J. (2017). Flood Risk and Shared Responsibility in Canada: Operating on Flawed Assumptions?. Centre for International Governance Innovation, Policy Brief No. 116.

Insurance Journal. (2019). Severe Weather in Canada Cost Insurers C$1.9 Billion in 2018: IBC. [online] Available at: https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/international/2019/01/17/515052.htm [Accessed 24 Apr. 2019].

Publicsafety.gc.ca. (2019). Floods. [online] Available at: https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/mrgnc-mngmnt/ntrl-hzrds/fld-en.aspx [Accessed 24 Apr. 2019].

Reuters. (2019). Spring floods in Canada's Quebec leave one dead, force evacuations. [online] Available at: https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-canada-weather/spring-floods-in-canadas-quebec-leave-one-dead-force-evacuations-idUKKCN1RY1AZ [Accessed 24 Apr. 2019].

Urgencequebec.gouv.qc.ca. (2019). Bilan provincial des conséquences - Urgence Québec. [online] Available at: https://www.urgencequebec.gouv.qc.ca/Fr/CruePrintaniere/Pages/Bilan-provincial-des-cons%C3%A9quences.aspx [Accessed 24 Apr. 2019].

Weather.gc.ca. (2019). Alerts for: Québec - Environment Canada. [online] Available at: https://weather.gc.ca/warnings/report_e.html?qc47 [Accessed 24 Apr. 2019].

Updated commentary references

Canadian Underwriter. 2019. How much of the Quebec flooding is insurable? [online] Available at: https://www.canadianunderwriter.ca/claims/thousands-of-properties-affected-by-quebec-flooding-1004162545/ [Accessed 30 Apr. 2019].

CBC. 2019. How high could the Ottawa River get: Sunday's forecast | CBC News. [online] Available at: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/ottawa-river-forecast-water-levels-april-28-1.5114448 [Accessed 30 Apr. 2019].

Government of Canada - Water Office. 2019. Real-Time Hydrometric Data Text Search - Water Level and Flow - Environment Canada. [online] Available at: https://wateroffice.ec.gc.ca/search/real_time_e.html [Accessed 30 Apr. 2019].

Government of New Brunswick. 2019. New Brunswick River Watch. [online] Available at: https://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/news/public_alerts/river_watch.html [Accessed 30 Apr. 2019].

Lalonde, M. 2019. Flood watch: Dikes to be built to contain flooding in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac. [online] Montreal Gazette. Available at: https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/flood-watch-dikes-to-be-built-to-contain-flooding-in-ste-marthe-sur-le-lac [Accessed 30 Apr. 2019].

The Telegram. 2019. Flood update: More than 9,500 people evacuated across Quebec | The Telegram. [online] Available at: https://www.thetelegram.com/news/canada/flood-update-more-than-9500-people-evacuated-across-quebec-306581/ [Accessed 30 Apr. 2019].

Urgence Québec . 2019. Crue printanière - 30 avril - 8 h - Urgence Québec. [online] Available at: https://www.urgencequebec.gouv.qc.ca/fr/crueprintaniere/Pages/information-situation.aspx [Accessed 30 Apr. 2019].