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Climate Change Blamed as Flooding Forces Thousands to Evacuate in Canada

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Climate Change Blamed as Flooding Forces Thousands to Evacuate in Canada
Canadian police officers stand a boat on a flooded street in suburbs of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on April 28, 2019. SEBASTIEN ST-JEAN / AFP / Getty Images

Flooding in four Canadian provinces has forced thousands of people to evacuate, and leaders across the country are blaming climate change.

Communities in Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec are all impacted and both Montreal and Ottawa have declared states of emergency, CTV news reported Saturday. The flooding comes just two years after heavy rain and snowmelt contributed to the worst floods in decades in Ontario and Quebec, according to Global News.


"This flooding is happening here in Quebec, it's happening in Ontario, it's happening in New Brunswick. And really sadly, what we thought was one-in-100-year floods are now happening every five years, in this case, every two years," Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said Thursday, according to Global News. "I remember sandbagging with folks in both Ontario and Quebec just two years ago … people whose houses were being affected whose lives are being affected. We know that climate change is real … we are going to continue to see this."

Flood records have been broken along some parts of the Ottawa river, and more records are expected to break in coming days, CBC reported Sunday. The Ottawa River Regulating Committee predicted water levels would peak Tuesday or Wednesday. Records are already being broken in Lac Coulonge, Arnprior and Ottawa.

"They say it's 100-year storms — well it's a few years later and we're back in the same boat," Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Friday, according to Global News. "Something is going on and we have to be conscious of it."

The city of Montreal extended a state of emergency for another five days on Sunday, Global News reported. The city expects to see water levels continue to rise Monday and Tuesday, as residents and authorities are working to prevent dikes from failing in some areas.

In Pierrefonds, water levels have surpassed the 2017 levels and residents are working to hold back the waters by building a 0.5 kilometer (approximately 0.3 miles) dike on top of a permanent dirt dike.

Allison Hanes warned in The Montreal Gazette that this could be the "new normal" for the region:

Although Pierrefonds borough Mayor Jim Beis says lessons from 2017 and quick action have protected hundreds of homes this time around, the flooding is already worse in some areas and the toll already higher than the calamity of 2017.

We are in uncharted waters. But the really scary part is that this could be the new normal — a terrifying new reality that has long been foretold, but is now upon us.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale explained why climate change makes historic flooding more likely, as Global News reported.

"This is one of the most obvious manifestations of a changing climate," Goodale said. "More unstable weather conditions where you can get precipitation that dumps years worth of moisture in a day or two. And then it all floods and causes enormous damage to private property as well as public infrastructure, as well as the economy."

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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