Montreal was a mess on Thursday.
After about 40 millimeters of rain fell, the streets were flooded, part of the subway system was temporarily disabled, and sewer manholes opened.
On Friday, staff at a downtown daytime shelter for homeless indigenous people were still trying to clean up, throwing out boxes and bags of donated clothing that had been tainted by water that had seeped into the building.
“They’ve infiltrated everywhere,” said David Chapman, chief executive of Resilience Montreal.
“Most of our merchandise is in sealed plastic containers, and thankfully, most items won’t end up in the trash, but will require a lot of cleaning.”
With the help of volunteers, Resilience Montreal staff were able to clean up while receiving about 300 of their customers and serving them breakfast.
“It makes a complex operation even more challenging,” Chapman said of the flood on Thursday. It was Resilience Montreal’s fourth flood in three years, he said.
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Eric Hummel, a resident of Montreal’s Verdun neighborhood, said his street has been flooded once a year for the past three years.
“These are things you don’t expect from a city like Montreal,” he said. “It’s stressful because you expect damage if things get worse.”
Simon Lego, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said Thursday’s floods are bound to hit when a city like Montreal gets a lot of rain in a short amount of time.
“If this happens in a forest or in a field, then it is unlikely [lead to] any flood. But when it comes to an urban area with cobbled streets, the sewers can’t handle that much rain,” Lego said.
“Infrastructure built by man must be able to withstand this amount of rain.”
Lego also said that due to climate change, heavy rainfall is likely to occur more frequently in the future.
In a meeting with reporters on Friday, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plant acknowledged that the city needs to do more to better deal with heavy rains, and also said her administration has taken a number of measures to make the city more “resilient”.
She said plans to preserve large swathes of existing green space, such as the Grand parc de l’Ouest project, and repairing the city’s aging water pipes are examples of ongoing efforts to better prepare for heavy rains.
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“These large green spaces act like a sponge during a flood,” the mayor said.
“It also means that we need to refurbish and make our equipment, like all pipes, more sustainable and of better quality. That’s why we’re moving as fast as we can to fix them.”