Rapid spring snowmelt and rains cause major floods in Quebec and southern B.C.

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      Another Canadian prime minister is faced with a massive natural disaster in the city that he represents.

      Justin Trudeau has been a Montreal member of Parliament since 2008.

      And today, Montreal mayor Denis Coderre declared a state of emergency for 48 hours after massive flooding hit his city. Some of the hardest hit areas have been Ahuntsic-Cartierville, L’Île-Bizard–Sainte-Geneviève, and Pierrefonds-Roxboro.

      Montreal isn't alone in facing severe floods. 

      More than 100 other municipalities, including Ottawa and Gatineau, have also been affected.

      The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change has a page on its website explaining why floods have occurred in the past in Quebec, noting that the major cause has often been spring snowmelt accompanied by rainfall.

      "This was the case for many Quebec rivers in 1974 and 1976, particularly in the Ottawa River basin and the Montreal region," the page states. "Usually there is only one snowmelt peak, but for the lower Ottawa River, there may be two.

      "The first peak is the snowmelt runoff from the southern tributaries," it continues. "The second results from snowmelt from the northern basins, which produces the highest peak flow. The Montreal region is susceptible to the most damaging flooding because it lies immediately below the confluence of the Ottawa River and the St. Lawrence River."

      In April 2017, there was three times the average monthly rainfall for the Ottawa-Gatineau region.

      Flooding has led to tragedy in Cache Creek, B.C., where the fire chief, Clayton Cassidy, went missing and is presumed dead. It's believed he was washed away by a raging river while checking the shoreline.

      Other southern B.C. communities also endured flooding and mudslides.

      This morning, B.C.'s River Forecast Centre has maintained a flood watch for the Salmon River.

      “My thoughts are with the thousands of families in hundreds of communities affected by flood water in various regions of the country," Transport Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement issued yesterday. "Transport Canada, in coordination with other federal departments such as the Department of National Defence, Public Safety Canada, and the Canadian Coast Guard is making its resources and assets available as part of the emergency response, including aircraft in its National Aerial Surveillance Program."

      The Canadian Armed Forces is assisting Quebec residents trying to cope with the flooding, which has turned regular streets into rivers in some communities.

      Climate change intensifies storms and flooding

      Last week, University of Ottawa climate scientist Paul Beckwith attributed flooding in his area to changes in the jet streams.

      "They're much slower, wavier, and storms are therefore moving slower," told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning program. "So when they're carrying water, they're hovering over an area longer than they would be normally, so they're depositing more water."

      So-called atmospheric rivers have hit other parts of the country in recent years, including Calgary in 2013. At the time, one of its MPs was then prime minister Stephen Harper.

      The Alberta floods of 2013 were the costliest natural disaster up to that point in Canadian history, resulting in $1.7 billion in losses.

      But they were supplanted three years later by the Fort McMurray wildfire, which cost a reported $9.5 billion both directly and indirectly. It struck in early May of 2016.

      Alberta water expert Robert William Sandford's 2015 book, Storm Warning: Water and Climate Security in a Changing World (Rocky Mountain Books), explained how climate change is dramatically transforming hydrological cycles.

      He pointed out that a warmer atmosphere carries more water vapour, causing more intense storms. And he maintained that this is "undermining the predictability upon which our economy depends for its own stability".

      To date, none of the B.C. political leaders have linked the recent flooding to climate change.

      But as images of washed-out communities appear on TV newscasts over the next 24 hours, it elevates the likelihood of this issue being on some voters' minds as they head to the polls on Tuesday (May 9).