Water levels towards the Fifth St. Bridge in Chatham. February 25, 2018. (Photo by Natalia Vega)

State of Emergency Continues

Water levels may have stopped rising, but officials in Chatham-Kent say they’re not out of it yet.

Chatham-Kent remains under the same state of emergency that has been in effect, and officials say it will stay in place for the near future.

Mayor Randy Hope and Fire and Emergency Services Chief Bob Crawford provided an update Sunday afternoon on the ongoing flood situation. The mayor said water levels in the city of Chatham itself have stopped rising, but levels remain abnormally high and emergency responders are keeping their guard up.

Hope says drainage and pumping systems are at full tilt and have been working flawlessly to handle all the water.

“Everything is working extremely hard to keep up with the amount of water that has actually been around the area,” said Hope. “It’s not because that something’s not working. Everything is working; systems are at maximum capacity.”

Crawford told reporters that staying on alert is the best course of action right now.

“It would be very premature at this time to say we’re moving to recovery,” said Crawford. “As you can see if you look around the station, we still have our boats ready to go. Our dive team is still activated. We’re still preparing for the worst.”

Hope responded to social media criticism that charged the municipality with being too aggressive as far as preparations were concerned. The mayor said it was better for everyone involved to prepare for the worst than be unprepared.

He said it is still the responsibility of residents to heed the warnings, which are there for their protection.

“When people say we overreact, I would sooner measure on the side of caution versus measure on the side of disaster,” said Hope. “We’ve seen disasters that occurred upstream from us in other communities around Ontario when people didn’t pay attention to road closures.”

With one concern being people ignoring road closures, Crawford said another is residents heading back to their homes without being given the all-clear.

“What we’re concerned about is people attempting to go back into their homes before it’s safe to do so,” said Crawford. “Make sure that you don’t try to reignite a pilot light or reactivate your electrical system. Rely on the professionals.”

Officials say if any resident has any doubt about whether their home is safe to return to, to call (519) 360-1998. A certified professional will head to their home to check things out.

—with files from Cheryl Johnstone—