Kyle Werner is no stranger to the rising waters of the Saint John River.
The 37-year-old from Lloydminster has lived in New Brunswick for nearly two decades and is used to the cycle of springtime flooding.
“The Saint John River system is massive. Coming from Saskatchewan and Alberta, you have those major rivers, but this one’s different,” he said Thursday.
“When it gets this high, it’s almost like an ocean of flood plain.”
The province’s Emergency Measures Organization said the river hit 5.34 metres above sea level in Saint John — water levels not seen since 1973 — and will likely exceed that on Saturday when forecasts say it could reach 5.8 metres.
Roughly 100 homes have been evacuated, affecting about 260 people, but those numbers are expected to climb.
“For whatever reason, this year it was a surprise,” Werner said.
Werner lives in Hanwell, a subdivision of Fredriction, about a 10-minute drive from the city’s downtown.
He said emergency crews have been stationed there for days, and several streets are completely under water. Traffic is severely restricted and as of Tuesday, 800 parking spots downtown weren’t accessible.
“There’s only one way across that river, because several of the on-ramps — well, all of the on-ramps — are under water,” he said. “The street that hits (the bridge) straight on, you can cross that way.”
While Werner’s home is safe on higher ground, his wife’s cousin bought a house across the river less than a year ago.
“He can’t get to within almost a kilometre of his house,” Werner explained.
“His whole basement, there’s water pouring in through the windows. The whole street’s under water — three, four feet of water — over top of the street, you can drive a boat down it.”
Werner said what’s more surprising — for him — is the prevailing sense of ease in the area.
“Seems to be this calmness. I’ve talked to several people who — they have six feet of water in their basements and they’re like, ‘Well, you know, not much I can do, it’s flooding season,'” he said.
Werner said he’s seen many people taking in the magnitude of the situation by photographing and getting video of the rising water.
Erika Betts, whose home and business are completely flooded, shared her personal photos on Facebook.
“On April 29, we woke up to our property completely surrounded by rising water,” she wrote in the post.
“In a mere 48 hours, we went from doing well, having a lovely house and two cars, and owning a business, to being homeless, car-less, and jobless. It’s quite a shock.”
Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Bill Fraser said in all 81 roads and bridges have been closed to traffic, while dozens of other roadways and ramps are partially closed in the flood-weary province.
— With files from The Canadian Press.