Mayor ‘relieved’ Sussex, N.B., escaped storm without major flooding
December 13, 2023
By Andrew Bates, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The mayor of Sussex, N.B., says he’s “relieved” things weren’t worse after water only briefly breached Trout Creek during a storm Monday.
The town got three times the amount of rain it was expecting Monday, with the rain gauge indicating 156 millimetres, Mayor Marc Thorne told Brunswick News. Forecasts had predicted 40 to 70 mm of precipitation except in areas of “heaviest rain,” with a rainfall warning for the whole province and a wind warning for southern N.B.
“That was a significant amount of rainfall and I am relieved that we didn’t have more issues with flooding than we did,” Thorne said, saying some homes and businesses adjacent to Trout Creek experienced groundwater flooding, and there was only a “small amount” of water that breached the banks.
“We did have some water on some of the streets and some of the backyards, but it was fairly contained in the banks and that makes all the difference in the world,” he said. He said it’s “never good” when anyone receives water, but many residents in problem areas have experience handling it.
At 7:30 a.m. Monday, water levels were in the normal range, but within 90 minutes they had increased by over a metre, Thorne said. The town’s emergency centre opened just before 8:30 a.m., according to an emergency update, and staff were dispatched with pumps to the berm site by the Gateway Mall and to tackle pooling areas in clogged storm drains. High Street was closed, with the town saying a tree had come down on a power line.
Around noon, things appeared to level off, Thorne said, but then in the afternoon the rain shifted again and the river went up by another 30 centimetres. Roads were closed as of 6:45 p.m. on Wallace Court, Holman Avenue, Meadow Crescent, Cunningham Avenue, Allison Drive and parts of Magnolia Avenue.
By 11 p.m., the town said all streets but High Street were reopened and that the emergency operations centre shifted to the monitoring stage.
“After 7:30 pm a downward trend in river levels were clear and during the overnight hours a return to a steady state materialized,” Sussex CAO Scott Hatcher said in an email.
Hatcher said there were no calls for emergency service or calls for assistance in any ward, and thanked the Sussex Emergency Management Organization staff and the regional EMO coordinator, who spent the day with Sussex staff in case help was needed.
“I’m always proud of the effort put out by our staff,” Thorne said. “Anyone who watched them work could see how invested they are in their jobs.”
He said for the Sussex area, which was hard-hit by flooding during spring freshets in 2018 and 2019, “anxiety is always high” among residents when there is a flood risk. He said the rapid rise during the morning was “very concerning, and frightening,” saying the “tension wears on you.”
“We’re always prepared for the worst. I wish we could stop this, but climate change is real, it’s here,” he said, saying in another area this storm may have brought five feet of snow. He said the town’s $28 million proposal to mitigate floods, including principally through a diversion channel to the Kennebecasis River, is currently in the federal approvals process.
“We know it’s slow, we know people are impatient, I am too. All we can do is keep pushing for the money to find a solution that can hopefully help relieve the water pressure that comes through our community when things like this happen,” he said.
As of 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, NB Power was reporting outages affecting 2,889 customers in the Kings/Queens County areas, after the number rose to 7,187 customers at 6:20 p.m. Monday. The bulk of that was in the areas of Kars, Springfield and Belleisle Creek, according to the online outage map.
NB Power said in a Facebook post at 11 a.m. Tuesday there had been “delays in safely restoring power” due to high winds lingering in the province and that crews continue to assess damage and make necessary repairs.
Andrew Bates is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Telegraph-Journal.
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