The most devastating cottage country floods in recent history

Muskoka Flood Photo by Ryan M

Everyone knows the old phrase, “April showers bring May flowers,” but for Canadian residents who have lived through a major flood, this light-hearted saying can fill them with dread.

While our country has seen some major floods throughout history, Mother Nature has incurred significant damage in the last two decades or so. As we gear up for springtime weather, many of those same communities are on watch for warming weather patterns, especially Canada’s East Coast, which received a significant amount of snowfall this year.

Let’s just hope we don’t have a repeat of one of these recent floods.

Melville, Saskatchewan (2014)

Mellville, Saskatchewan flood

While the population of Melville is small, the flood damage this past summer was large. Melville, a town located near Regina, is Saskatchewan’s official smallest city consisting of about 5,000 residents. Due to heavy rains in the region, the water in the town’s reservoir started to spill onto farmers’ fields, eventually making its way into the town’s hospital. A state of emergency was called, and with the help of the Red Cross and the RCMP more than 150 patients needed to be relocated to a nearby recreational centre. The estimated cost of damage in the small community was $360 million.

Muskoka, Ontario (2013)

Huntsville flood
Photo courtesy of cp24.com

As recently as two springs ago, one Ontario’s most popular cottaging regions received the wrath of torrential downpours that caused record high floods. Water came crashing through dams in Bracebridge, submerging highways, and causing mass evacuations of residents form their homes. Seven communities had to declare states of emergency, with Huntsville and Kawartha Lakes surroundings seeing the worst of it. The floods also affected parts of Northern Ontario including areas of North Bay and Parry Sound with the cost of damage estimated in the millions. Some area residents are still dealing with costly repairs from the damage caused to their homes and cottages.

Minden Hills, Ontario (2013)

Minden Hills
Photo courtesy of globalnews.ca

The nearby sleepy cottage town of Minden, Ontario, located in the heart of the Canadian Shield, experienced similar destruction from the springtime downpours and the overflow of the Trent Severn Waterway, declaring a state of emergency and evacuations of its estimated 6,000 residents. With the roads flooded, many residents took to their boats and canoes to get around or out of the area. The small town was under water for weeks after the initial flood, with an estimated $4 million in damages to repair the homes and private properties.

Canmore, Alberta (2013)

Canmore, Alberta
Photo courtesy of yournews.cbc.ca

Just a few months later in the same year, the residents of Alberta’s small mountain town of Canmore were left stunned as they watched the usually calm Cougar Creek turn into a fast-flowing river. The melting snow coupled with more than 250 millimetres of falling rain, caused the raging river to destroy nearly everything in its path, including trees and giant boulders, which added to the damage. Canmore, which is located about 100 kilometres west of Calgary, has a population of more than 12,000 residents, and the flood damage estimated was at more than $50 million.

Thunder Bay, Ontario (2012)

Thunder Bay, Ontario
Photo courtesty of netnewsledger.com

A downpour of more than 100 millimetres of rain in Thunder Bay caused flooded homes, businesses and streets, submerging vehicles and calling for a state of emergency. The worst of it was the flooding of the city’s sewage treatment plant, which was out of commission for some time. The never-ending rain caused the flood to move to Montreal, causing a massive damage throughout the city, and an estimated cost of around $200 million.

Red River, Manitoba (2009)

Red River, Manitoba
Photo by boston.com

While the Red River has a devastating history of flooding and causing immense damage to the surrounding Southern Manitoba communities, the 2009 flood was named one of the worst in the past 100 years. Only two previous floods have been worse—one in 1950, before the floodway was put in place, and one in 1997, which left thousands without homes and brought in military intervention in the province. The Government of Manitoba reported that an estimated 2,800 residents were displaced, calling for a state of emergency and totaling $40 million in damages.

Saint John River, New Brunswick (2008)

Saint John River Flood
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

What is considered the worst flooding of the Saint John River in the last 42 years, began with a deadly mix: a large amount of snow on the ground (50 centimetres above normal), unusually warm weather, and heavy springtime rains. The fast-melting snow and the downpours flooded the nearby rivers, including Saint John River, which is located near New Brunswick’s largest town, Saint John. The flood eventually drained into the Bay of Fundy, but not before an estimated 1,600 homes and riverside properties were damaged, and much of the nearby farmland destroyed, with an estimated cost of damage around $50 million.

Saguenay, Quebec (1996)

Photo courtesy of thecanadianencyclopedia.ca

Worthy of mention is the 1996 flood of Saguenay—a city of about 148,000 residents, located some 200 kilometres north of Quebec City—mainly because of the significance of the staggering economic costs it caused the province, and at the height of tourist season. It was the deadliest flood since Hurricane Hazel submerged the city of Toronto in 1954, and the first natural disaster to cost over $1 billion. Torrential downpours caused flooding and mudslides in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, killing ten people, and forcing around 16,000 residents to evacuate. An estimated 2,000 homes were destroyed or damaged, and numerous vehicles were buried in mud.