Montreal was a mess on Thursday.
After about 40 millimetres of rain fell, streets were flooded, part of the Metro system temporarily shut down and sewer covers popped open.
On Friday, staff at a downtown day shelter for Indigenous people experiencing homelessness were still scrambling to clean up while throwing out boxes and bags of donated clothes which were ruined by water that had seeped into the building.
“It just went in everywhere,” said David Chapman, the executive director of Resilience Montreal.
“Most of our goods are in sealed plastic containers and so fortunately most things won’t go to the garbage but will require an awful lot of cleaning.”
With the help of volunteers, staff at Resilience Montreal were able to clean while still welcoming about 300 of their clients and serving them breakfast.
“It makes a challenging operation more challenging still,” Chapman said of Thursday’s flooding. According to him, it was Resilience Montreal’s fourth flood in the last three years.
Eric Hammel, a resident of Montreal’s Verdun borough, said his street has been flooded once a year for the last three years.
“These are things you don’t expect from a city like Montreal,” he said. “It’s stressful because you anticipate damages if things get worse.”
Simon Legault, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said Thursday’s floods are bound to happen when lots of rain falls in a short amount of time in an city like Montreal.
“If that happens in a forest or a field, that probably won’t [lead to] any flooding. But when it comes into an urban area with streets that are paved, sewers cannot take that much rain,” Legault said.
“The infrastructure that were built by man, they need to manage that amount of rain.”
Legault also said that kind of heavy rainfall is likely to happen more frequently in the future due to climate change.
Meeting with reporters on Friday, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante acknowledged that the city needs to do more to better handle heavy rainfall, while also saying her administration has implemented several measures to make the city more “resilient.”
She said plans to preserve large swaths of existing green spaces — like the Grand parc de l’Ouest project — and repairing the city’s aging water pipes are examples of efforts underway to better prepare for heavy rain.
“Those big green spaces act like a sponge when there is flooding,” the mayor said.
“Also, it means that we need to repair and make our equipment like all of the pipes more resilient and better done. So this is why we’re moving as fast as we can to repair them.”